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Scott's personal thoughts and experiences.

Book review: "Second Skin" by Cal P. Logan

So I don't usually read much fantasy, because there are two pitfalls that I find quite often in the genre. Bear with me for a moment, before I get to my review of Mr. Logan's work.

The first pitfall is slogging through oft-recycled 'high fantasy' tropes: barbaric orcs, greedy dragons, knights and castles and flowery speech and silly names and hard-to-pronounce names and compound-word descriptive names...I loved all that when I was a kid, but now...yawn. The common archetypes have grown stale for me, having been lifted straight from the pages of Tolkien, Brooks, and AD&D.

The second pitfall is a cure that's worse than the disease: the extensive world-building that’s required to escape this trap. Well-meaning authors who recognize the need to blaze new trails can unfortunately corral their audience into sociopolitical stage-setting which can run on for dozens of pages—often in the opening chapter, no less—when what I need is a hook that will bring me right into the action. I’m afraid that after complaining about the first problem, I don’t find the proposed solution any more palatable.

It takes focus to thread the needle, and that’s exactly what Logan does with “Second Skin", a punchy tale about an assassin tasked with a merciless mission. Vincent, the protagonist, is a contract killer who’s “as good as any three men" in the words of his cold-blooded boss…and yet the narrative is written with the depth of feeling that shows the real character, a family man with an undeniable propensity for love. Vincent must rid the city of Brenhold of a beautiful “flower witch” whose entanglements soon have him second-guessing the mission. The witch's demise is all that’s required for Vincent to return to his family, but where feelings are involved, nothing is simple.

“Second Skin" explores a surprising amount of relevant modern-day problems in its single-sitting tour de force. Among Vincent’s struggles are the need to maintain his own identity beneath the mask he must wear around others; the pursuit of work/life balance; and finding the least unethical choice in an impossible situation. Does it surprise you that a killer-for-hire would have these problems? If so, the surprise will be a pleasant one: the characters are not wooden fantasy templates. Logan’s handling of the narrative is smooth enough for you to slip into Vincent’s head like the titular turn of phrase—and you’re going to stay there after the story’s over.

Showcasing his considerable writing skills, Logan earns 5 stars for a concise story that delivers more depth in fewer pages than many of the lengthy fantasy tomes you’ve read. It’s no wonder that Logan’s upcoming “Sundering” is so hotly anticipated—this is an author to watch closely.

Check it out here on Amazon! Have you read “Second Skin”? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!

Scott ArbuckleComment