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Book Review: Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

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Meet Tammy. She’s a teenage bombshell, the hottest thing in Rockwood. She also happens to be high priestess to the Old Gods and agent of the apocalypse. Tammy has invoked the black arts, raised the living dead, conjured abomination after otherworldly abomination against Gil’s All-Night Diner in the hopes of scaring off the establishment’s ample new owner, Loretta, and accessing the diner’s gateway to hell. But it seems, whatever the hot young witch throws at the place, Loretta will not leave.

Now Meet Duke and Earl – a slovenly lycanthrope and his blood-sucking best bud. On their way through town, these creatures of the night stop for a midnight snack at the diner and wind up biting off way more than they can chew (overdeveloped canines notwithstanding). The pair soon learn they are all that stand between Earth and Tammy’s nefarious aspirations of world conquest.

Undead cattle, chupacabras, and amatory spirits abound in A. Lee Martinez’s sidesplitting debut novel, Gil’s All Fright Diner. Every scene holds laugh-out-loud moments (and I do mean every scene). The author suffuses this tale of urban fantasy with biting humor, vivid settings, and the wackiest characters of which any fun-loving reader could dare dream.

This is not to say Martinez skimps on substance, though. Far from it. He takes such supernatural chestnuts as werewolves, vampires, and witches and from them generates a cast of wholly original characters. The good guys are at once hilarious and multifaceted. The minor characters are goal-driven and relatable. Yes, the antagonist is an evil practitioner of black magic, but the reader never forgets that she is also a teenaged girl, complete with all the frets and fancies that come with adolescence.

As of late, some may consider the Armageddon story to be a bit old hat, yet Martinez manages to breathe new life into this subject while concurrently juggling a charming subplot between two star-crossed lovers. Both storylines are paid appropriate attention, neither tripping up its comrade.

With works like A Nameless Witch (2007) and Monster (2009), A. Lee Martinez has proven time and again why he’s a force with which to be reckoned in the genre of contemporary fantasy. His satiric wit shines through with every novel and his debut effort is no exception. Published April 28, 2005 by Tor Books, the paperback edition of Gil’s All Fright Diner spans 268 uproarious pages. I highly recommend this book, not just to urban fantasy enthusiasts, but rather any booklover looking for a darn good read.

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