I have followed Ryan McFadden’s writing career since it was in its embryonic stage. It’s no secret we’ve been besties since high school, we’ve been in each other’s wedding parties, and we’re each other’s “go to” when we need a good swift kick in the ass (metaphorically or physically).
The novel that has become Cursed: Black Swan – A Fixer Novel is about 20 years in the making. I read the first version of it when it was called Nathaniel, before it was put back into a drawer for a decade. I’ve read everything as Ryan has evolved as a writer, he became an Aurora award winner for his part in the anthology Women of the Apocalypse, he won again with The Puzzle Box, and he got more accolades for his shared world concept “The 10th Circle Project”.
All of that time served as an evolution for Nathaniel, and what would become Cursed. When Ryan was offered a book contract, Nathaniel had been professionally edited, had been significantly punched up, and was now officially ready for prime time.
I have always joked with Ryan that he is an overnight success two decades in the making, and his debut novel is proof of that.
I really enjoyed Nathaniel, but what it has evolved into as Cursed is something entirely different. Cursed is the culmination of everything Ryan has learned from being mentored by Robert J. Sawyer, it’s the result of his awesome collaborations with Eileen Bell, Billie Mullholland and Randy Charles.
In terms of tone, I have always said that Ryan’s writing is like the best parts of Raymond E Feist’s Magician series combined with Eric Van Lustbader’s penchant for action and the characterization of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.
Cursed is a first person narrative told from the point of view of Nathaniel. He’s a Fixer, a troubleshooter, and a scoundrel. I always pictured him physically as Russell Crowe from The Quick and the Dead, but he is like Indiana Jones by way of Bruce Campbell mentally. Nothing is ever his fault, and he has the bravado that hides his incompetence.
The world is rich and well realized, factions like the Crucifiers are terrifying in their zealotry, and yet totally believable. He introduces concepts quickly, and effortlessly, and while you don’t exactly know what a “Dragon Root” is or a “Razor Tipped Sawfish” could possibly come from, the ideas are visceral enough that you don’t question them.
I am so happy to have watched Ryan’s evolution from amateur to professional writer, and I think this is a novel that everyone should check out.