Bobby Dollar: The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews The Dirty Streets of Heaven, the first Bobby Dollar novel by Tad Williams, published by Hodder Paperbacks in the UK.
“One of the best urban fantasy novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Essential reading for urban fantasy fans.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a novel that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I first heard about it last year. However, it was a title that I was unable to pick up before the end of the year, because otherwise if I’d have read it would certainly have gone on the Best of… list, and most likely in the Top 5. I’ve never read anything by Tad Williams before but The Dirty Streets of Heaven is just that good. I’m not even joking here, it’s amazing. I couldn’t stop reading it and I’m so glad that I made the decision to pick it up, with the book having come to my attention back when I was browsing through NetGalley and found a review copy of the sequel (which I have recently read and equally loved), so I promptly requested that and brought this book as soon as I could on the Kindle Fire. I’m glad to say it impresses – and both books (look out for a review of Happy Hour in Hell closer to its publication date) are fantastic. Strong, awesome and kickass, Tad William’s first Bobby Dollar novel is a must read for any Urban Fantasy fan, and gains my highest recommendation.
THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN is the first in a new set of fantasy-fuelled thrillers from the author George R. R. Martin cites as one of the major inspirations behind Game of Thrones: Tad Williams, international bestselling author of _The Dragonbone Chair_.
BOBBY DOLLAR ISN’T YOUR AVERAGE ANGEL. Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate – arguing the fate of the recently deceased – keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he’s more than happy to spend the rest of his time propping up the bar with his fellow immortals. Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by ‘the other side’. A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him.
What makes The Dirty Streets of Heaven different from your average Urban Fantasy novel is that Bobby Dollar, our lead character – is an Angel, which means – he’s not human, or at least – not human anymore. This allows for a very different take on the traditional Private Investigator/Detective figure that populates male written urban fantasy novels such as from the likes of Harry Dresden, Alex Verus & Peter Grant. However, Bobby still manages to fall into that wisecracking, sarcastic rogue that is pretty much a stereotype of this genre despite his rather unique background. This would have bothered me if the novel was anything less than what it turned out to be, but the portrayal of Bobby here fit just fine, his great first person narration that we are stuck with throughout the novel really enhances its strengths, allowing for a likeable, memorable and interesting lead character who puts the likes of Dresden & Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark to shame when it comes to hilarious quips, and his character is executed very well.
Other characters also get their fair share of the spotlight too, and are just as powerfully created as Bobby, even if they may not take up as much pagetime. Bobby’s Angel-buddy, Sam – allows for the book to sometimes feel like a buddy-cop movie, with a bit of an Angelic twist. There’s also an Angel, Sam’s trainee, with the unfortunate nickname of Clarence, who allows for an interesting dynamic and gets a large amount of page time as Sam and an equally important role. Of course however, with any novel involving Angels – there’s bound to be Demons, and we get a wide variety of Demons thrown at us here. The Countess of the Cold Hands, nicknamed Caz – who is the main female lead in this novel, and whilst she may not be exactly a ‘hero’ she does have a key role to play in how things work out, There’s also Eligor – a Demon, who comes across as the main antagonist in not just The Dirty Streets of Heaven but also Happy Hour in Hell, the sequel. He allows for an interesting touch and whilst he may not appear as much as the other characters previously mentioned, he does have a considerable role to play in how things proceed.
Whilst reading this book, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d love to see Tad Williams write an episode of Supernatural. The book shares a similar style to the TV show and the Sam/Bobby interaction is very similar to the Dean/Sam interaction at times. The book itself is set in a noir Detective style despite the conflict between angels and demons, but as well as being a ‘whodunit’, The Dirty Streets of Heaven gets across the portrayal of Angels and Heaven in a very unique and detailled manner, with some great world-building pulled off by Williams here, prove that books can speed along at an ‘edge of your seat’ pace and still manage to provide a lot of detail about the world that it’s set in, how being an Angel works, the pros and cons etc, and more. This was a book that I couldn’t put down when I was reading, and as a result the first Bobby Dollar novel not only matched my expectations, which were high mainly due to Williams’ reputation in fantasy – but knocked them out of the park.
The plot is pretty awesome as well. For the most part, it’s unpredictable, captivating and enthralling. Dollar is a likeable and rootable character, with his anti-authoritarian background landing him into a lot of trouble allowing for a variety of different action scenes that will always entertain, made more enjoyable by the strong, confident narrative voice. With an interesting twist on the Heaven and Hell mythos where violent conflict is banned and angels and demons fight for human souls in law courts with a supernatural twist, The Dirty Streets of Heaven manages to excel at bringing us a great Urban Fantasy novel that feels really fresh and original for a genre that veterans may think that they’ve seen it all.
An excellent, resounding success. is what this novel is. The Dirty Streets of Heaven dare I say it, is even better than The Dresden Files, or at least – I’ve read nine of them so far. The book is just that good. Any urban fantasy fans should read this if they haven’t already, and Happy Hour In Hell – its sequel, is just as great. In short, go and buy this book now. Trust me when I say this, you won’t regret it.
BOBBY DOLLAR SERIES: The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Happy Hour in Hell (Sept 2013), Judgement Day (2014)