James Alan Gardner’s They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded is the second of his superheroes vs. vampires novels. I liked the first book a lot—it had verve and energy, and combined an interesting plot with a solid character arc. This one isn’t quite as good, though.

It still has the energy and style, right, which means that at the very least it’s a light fun read, and I’m always up for that. And the plot was okay—a little shaggier than the first one, with some story detours in the middle that end up kind of making the plot structure feel a bit lumpy and back-loaded—but basically engaging and all.

But the character arc was a bit off. So this series is about a group of friends who get superpowers and become a team, right. And the first book focused on one of them, and had a whole psychological journey for that character. And so this book focuses on a different character, and it starts off setting up the problems that this character is going to have to confront over the course of the novel. Okay, cool.

But then… the problems either don’t get resolved, or get resolved in extremely unsatisfactory ways. I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but we’re talking like “wave a magic wand to solve your personal problems” level of plotting here. The only way it really works at all is if I’m misunderstanding the structure of this series, if it’s not supposed to be a book per character, and actually this character’s arc is going to continue on into future books, so we haven’t actually seen their third act yet and the magic solution isn’t really a meant to be a solution at all.

So I guess we’ll wait and see about that. But I will still be reading, because even with a questionable character arc structure, this was still some good solid fun, and I’m interested in where the series is going.


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