Emergency Shift by Daniel Potter takes place in a Portland, Oregon where the barriers that separate our world from the other worlds has been fraying. Abby Night’s life has already been touched by the supernatural, but things are about to become even stranger. As the paramedic and her partner respond to a call and make an unwitting promise to a dying fey knight, Abby will find herself bound to a Secret. A Secret that will endanger her friends and bring up her dark past, but also bring new purpose to her life if she can survive a mad hunter and a journey beyond the fairy circle into the Dream.
CWs: graphic violence; on-screen murder and torture; zombies; fantasy horror; body horror; physical transformation; kidnapping; hospitals; magical bonds & oaths; Depression; Closeted Trans person and unintentional dead-naming; conspiracy theories; aftermath of an abusive relationships; references to past white supremacy, terrorist activities, cutting, and suicidal thoughts
The first of the Full Moon Medic Series, the basic premise of the story is modern fantasy with elements of action and horror. While I will not discuss the plot beyond the basics or spoil its ending, the journey and promises Abby and her pooka charge Secret have to make to survive leave several hooks for a sequel. The cast is racially diverse and there are several examples of LGBTQ+ representation in the book with major characters who are transgender, bisexual, and lesbian.
The world-building pulls strongly from European and Asian folklore, with the strongest influences being Celtic mythology and English literature. Fairies, spirits, and ancient gods exist in the Dream, the fae Otherworld. In recent times the barriers have been weakening between the realms and the Crossroads, allowing fae, zombies, vampires, werewolves, and more to encounter mortals again. Many of the fae encountered have connections to familiar characters like the Queens Titania and Mab of the Summer and Winter Courts and Puss in Boots of the Court of Cats.
However, many of the fae have changed by the need to adapt to modern culture because they survive on worship or memories of mortals. This leads to a number of interesting fae characters. For example, Abby and Secret also encounter a troll that has been surviving on mortal memories and adoration for the Beast character from Beauty and the Beast. This steady diet has modified his appearance, and base nature so much that the basic mythological rules of trolls don’t apply to him anymore.
An unfortunate element of this book is that it contains a significant amount of exposition in the first third of the text. While this might be expected for the first novel of a series, here it goes beyond that. This book references events that occurred in a short story prequel named Twilight Run. Many of the relevant plot points is explained in this book in addition to the usual first book world-building and character building exposition, so this short story should not be seen as required reading. The author has a link where you can access it for free available on their social media pages.
The characters’ relationships between one another is a major driver of the plot of this story. While Abby unknowing becomes bonded to Secret at the beginning of the story, their relationship transforms into a sense of protection and obligation to that of found family. Found family also highlights many other relationships with many characters becoming closer to one another over the course of the plot.
The second one in an evolution in Abby’s character, but first I need to explain a couple of the content warnings I mentioned at the beginning of this review since some of them may be major turn-offs for readers. Abby previously had a boyfriend while in high school named Jeremy. He became heavily involved in Neo-Nazi rhetoric and pulled Abby into it despite her mother’s Chinese heritage. Jeremy’s beliefs led to him instigating a mass shooting that Abby had unknowingly supplied the gun for. Among the dead were Abby’s parents.
While Abby has since “deprogramed” herself, she still bears a lot of anger and self-loathing about Jeremy. There are no major flashbacks in the story but Jeremy, his beliefs, and actions is referenced multiple times in the story by Abby’s internal dialogue and antagonists in the story trying to manipulate her. Her growth comes from healing some of these mental scars and coming to accept the touch of supernatural she encountered in the Twilight Run short story.
Another content warning I feel the need to discuss is the one about a closeted trans person and unintentional dead-naming. In the story Abby’s partner Cindy is a trans woman. While Abby knows that Cindy is transgender, no one else at work is aware. As a result, she has to use her dead-name at work until story circumstances to come out as transgender to her manager. He is accepting after brief initial shock. I am not transgender, so I can not speak to the authenticity of Cindy’s experiences. However, the author mentions in his notes that he consulted with at least several sensitivity reader at least one of which is transgender.
Overall, I would say the book is a strong beginning for this series. I will give it an 8/10 though my opinion may increase or decrease depending on a future reading of Twilight Run and the upcoming sequel. The author’s website can be found here.