“Cunning Devil” is the premiere work of author Chris Underwood. It is the first book in what appears to be a trilogy based in the “Lost Falls” area. You quickly realize this storyteller has quite the imagination filled with fantasy, magic, along with a bit of dark urban mixed in. He is able to weave the many aspects of a great story into a concise and well-developed contemporary fantasy tale. The book is expertly narrated by Gary Bennett who is additionally the narrator of the wonderful “Dragon Mage” series by Scott Baron. If you have not listened to this series of audiobooks, you are missing out on some fun. If you are a person who likes a bit of traditional fantasy wrapped around an urban setting, you are in for a treat listening to this audiobook. Those familiar with the TV series “Supernatural” or “Charmed” will settle in quickly and enjoy this story. Mix in a little bit of “Ghostbusters” humor and you have a good idea of what to expect while listening. If this seems like your type of story including suspense, mystery, and a bit of a darker feel, you will find this audiobook worth an Audible credit.
Not sure why all the towns in stories like these are ones I would not want to live in. However, our main character, Ozzy Turner, lives in Lost Falls which appears to be the central location of much paranormal activity along with a few magical doorways allowing fantasy creatures in. The cunning man, or devil, is someone from British lore who is known to be a professional or semi-professional practitioner of magic. In this story, you will be introduced to spells, wards, curses and charms with elements of a fantasy flair. The author does a great job of blending the fantasy and paranormal together into a cohesive and well told story. What I liked was finding myself often surprised to have a hobgoblin or goblin come into the scene when I would have expected a vampire or werewolf. The use of non-standard tropes and magic system kept me engrossed and listening.
The magic system felt new and different from other books I have listened too. More like the magic one would find in the likes of “Supernatural” or “Charmed”. However, like with most magic, there is often one or more consequences to its use. Attempt to use magic for good on one person and you may find another receiving bad unexpectedly. Magic as well in this audiobook is like a stock commodity which can be traded for nearly anything but standard currency. This includes doing a specific deed, taking the life of another, or giving up your own life for another, etc.
Although the characters had complexity, I would have enjoyed an even deeper understanding of them. They were not flat, but I felt I could have understood them much better if given the opportunity. In a few scenes we are shown some of the desires and longings of the main character, but I would have liked to have had more. This longing did carry through the audiobook reminding the listener of its importance. I cared, but I wanted to care more. I will say that the author did a good job of showing the great sacrifices one has to give ensuring their family and friends are kept safe. This band of paranormal adventurers also requires the skills and strengths of one another to accomplish their common goal. On top of this, the author immerses you in descriptive life-like worlds and situations that do not take much effort to enjoy. We are even given a few places where the characters let down their guard and we see a bit of who they really are.
It may sound like a rather dark and dreary tale, yet the author is able to sprinkle in humor, sarcasm, and abundant amounts of banter between the characters making the listener laugh at times. There are even times we see the use of puns making fun of the horror and paranormal genres. A few times I had to laugh out loud when the characters would be afraid to go down into the dark basement or knowing what might be lurking behind a given door. I found it funny that the main character as well saw himself as a paranormal exterminator in the likes of the famous Ghostbusters movie; not the new one but the older one. The main character would use his powers for profit when someone found their home being invaded by some mystical or magical being. I can say that I now know where my missing socks from the laundry go. Even with the amount of humor, there was a good amount of suspense and mystery keeping the listener guessing. There was also an element of tension due to a specific timeframe in which the problem needed to be solved in or there would be dire consequences.
As I have recently completed the Dragon Mage series, I’m always open to listening to other audiobooks by a narrator I enjoy. Mr. Bennett has the type of voice which draws you into the story and is able to bring the written work to life via his calm and clear speech. I can often tell when a narrator understands the material as the reading is smooth, comfortable and expressive. The narrator was able to get this across as he read the story and the pace was just how I like it. The multiple characters were easy to distinguish, and each felt they had their own unique personalities. Apart from a few noticeable edits in the audio, the narration was professional.
For parents and younger readers, this audiobook does contain a fair amount of vulgar language. The author as well includes some crude and mature humor that may not be appropriate for younger listeners. If you are easily offended by such material, I would suggest you not listen to this audiobook.
In summary, the book has both a serious portion along with parts which reminded me of the Scooby Doo television series. It was fun and light-hearted, yet the blending of both fantasy and paranormal felt cohesive and believable. The additional mysterious man added an unexpected twist and tension. The storytelling and narration make this one worth the listen. If you are searching for a new series, this is a place to start. Note, the other two in the series are not yet available on Audible.