Date started: March 18th
Date finished: March 26th
Run the Day is the debut novel by Matthew Davis, and the first in what I assume is to become a series, Grey Days. Like much modern urban fantasy, it’s set in a fictionalised version of a real city. In this case Hanford, a smallish city that exists somewhere in the no man’s land between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the world of Grey Days, there are two ‘realms’ if you will. There’s the normal world, where normal humans reside, unaware of the Other ‘realm’, occupied by Mages and Others.
This isn’t a wholly accurate way of describing it, since the worlds aren’t separate. The Others walk amongst and interact with the humans, but in a human form. It takes a Mage to be able to see into both. One such Mage, the titular hero, is Thomas Grey; a grumpy but affable mash up of Harry Dresden and John Constantine. His supporting cast includes Swift, his effortlessly cool maybe-sidekick, Hack, an old man and powerful Mage with ties to Thomas’s great grandfather, and Rosa, a cleaning lady who’s dragged into the whole mess and wound up being the stand out character for me.
The mess begins when Thomas is hired by one of his clients, a man with major ties to the supernatural side of Hanford, to find a book called the Libro Nihil, a book with the power to bring about the apocalypse. What follows is a series of events involving zombie pigs, ogres, south side gangsters, and a man long thought dead as Thomas and his associates race to track down the Libro Nihil before the world ends.
From start to finish, Run the Day is a fun and fast paced romp through a fantastical California town. Coming in at just under 50,000 words, it’s a brief read, and zips from event to event with few moments to catch your breath. Davis wastes very little time faffing about, choosing instead to get right into the action and explain as he goes. It’s a good decision; too many fantasy books treat the reader as a tourist in the world, dropping lengthy exposition at every convenient moment. Run the Day eschews this almost entirely. From the moment just after opening, where Thomas is attacked by a giant bug masquerading as an old man, if you’re not buckled in for the ride, you’re getting left behind.
That said, there were a couple of issues I felt held the story back from achieving its fullest potential. While the fast pace is a good thing, at times it felt too fast. Encounters pass with barely a mention, and seemingly interesting ideas, such as an army of homeless people arming themselves against the Others with talismans, are glossed over, as if the plot was in a rush to get to the next cool setpiece. Since this is the first in a series, I have to assume these dominos have all been set up so they can be knocked down in later stories since, frankly, a novel about homeless drifters fighting zombies, vampires, and other such things seems too cool to pass up.
My other criticism rests with the protagonist himself. Maybe it’s a side effect of the first person point of view, but he was the character I had the least connection to by the story’s end. His inner monologue is often snarky and fun to read, but the other characters around him were more interesting. I mentioned before how Rosa was a stand out. As a human just having her first experience with the Other world, her reactions were often hilarious, and I found myself wanting to read a lot more of her story.
Ultimately, Run the Day is a fun read, and excellent value at less than the price of a Tesco sandwich. It’s a solid start to what should be a fun series, and a good novel by a potentially great author.