Private Investigator Vern is the only dragon on the Mundane side of the interdimensional Gap. When an apparently routine job tracking down a damsel-in-distress’s missing brother leads to his Faerie best friend and business partner, Sr. Grace, being shot with a poisoned dart and placed in a coma, he will risk almost anything to save her. But the artifact at the heart of the trouble is a threat to both the Faerie and Mundane worlds. Will Vern have to choose between Sr. Grace and the fate of both worlds?
The Lance of Longinus, neo-Nazis, and high stakes make for an entertaining fifth outing in the Vern series.
Racial bigotry in the form of neo-Nazism is a significant theme in the book. The hatred in the story is directed mostly at Faerie, but through this conflict, Fabian is able to critique racism and prejudice in our own real world.
Friendship is also a key theme. Although I did slightly miss Sr. Grace as an ‘on stage’ character, Vern’s loyalty to Sr. Grace and his attempts to save her are appropriately heart-warming and build to a satisfying moment of crisis for our winged hero, where he must decide whether he will do the right thing no matter the cost.
Fans of the series will find that this is not the very fastest paced of the Vern outings. Vern spends a lot of the book following lead after lead and failing to turn up anything, which gives the feel that our favorite drake is running hard in place rather than moving forward. Ultimately, at the end, it felt somewhat like God simply stepped in and solved all the problems, with little real input from Vern. This was very intellectually satisfying (at least for readers of faith) but less so emotionally.
Regardless, like all the Vern outings, it’s a good, fun read, bristling with hilarious lines such as: “it was a couple of blocks before I realized I had a tail that had nothing to do with my anatomy.” Sometimes Fabian combines the comedy with more serious faith elements, such as after Sr. Grace’s “angel” wards scare a would-be intruder half out of his mind:
“What was that?” he rasped.
“Angels, kid.” Actually a kind of magical shadow of the real thing, but close enough.
“But I thought angels were…”
“There’s a reason why their first words are usually ‘Fear not!’ whenever they meet a human.” His eyes returned to their unfocused stare.
This book will particularly delight Catholics (church-going dragon sleuth, after all!) but will also be enjoyable to any Protestant or secular readers who don’t mind the odd mention of Catholic practice and the positive presentation of Catholic nuns, religious, and priests. Despite the Almighty’s role in the ending, faith actually plays a fairly backseat role in this Vern tale.
This fifth book in the Vern series puts a heartwarming theme about friendship front and center and will appeal to most fans of fun comic fantasy.