Review by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
I’ve read lots of Rhys Ford’s books. They can be exhausting: very high energy, lots of relentless action and emotional turmoil. Dim Sum Asylum is no exception, and I think it’s one of the best things she’s written.
The genesis of this book was in a short story by the same name published in the m/m paranormal anthology, Charmed and Dangerous. I loved it then, and I really loved seeing that frenzied short story turned into an equally frenzied full-length cop drama with intense paranormal coloration.
The novel is set in present-day San Francisco; but it’s a city very different from the one I know and love. This is a world where magic infuses the air and dragons are as commonplace as cable cars and pigeons. It is a city in which humans and faeries live together in benign tension, and where both human and fae bloodlines are complicated by the normal ethnic cross-pollination of modern America. Roku MacCormick is half Scottish faerie and half Japanese human. His mother was a policeman and his father the son of a local crime lord. He is a rare hybrid, and is regarded with suspicion by both sides of the equation.
This all should give you a sense of the rich stew that Ford unleashes on the unsuspecting reader. When Roku finds himself in need of a new partner, he is assigned Trent Leonard, whose Nordic bulk and mysterious past pique Roku’s curiosity and libido in equal measure. Roku carries a lot of pain, as the constellation of black star-shaped tattoos on his body attest. What he doesn’t understand is why Leonard would want to partner with him. The answer to that question is one of the constant themes in this action-driven plot.
The rain is almost its own character in this story. Now, San Fran can be foggy and cold, but I’ve never experienced it the way Ford presents it—a gray, overcast sky with rain that builds in intensity until the clamoring crescendo of the finale. Not only does the rain complicate everything that Roku and Trent try to do as policemen, it also represents the emotional tumult in both men as they try to figure out how to work as a team, and how to deal with their undeniable attraction to each other.
Ford is really a wonderfully visual—cinematic—writer. The description of sights, sounds and smells in this shimmering paranormal San Francisco are not always appealing, but the language is always beautiful and as well-crafted as the sinister netsuke that play such a significant role in the narrative.
In other reviews, I have knocked off a star from Rhys Ford’s books because all the violence and tsuris just seemed a bit much for me. But somehow, in Dim Sum Asylum, it all falls into place and works like a well-oiled fantastic machine. Oh, how I’d love to see this made into a film. It would make Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon look like Sesame Street.