the Little Red Reviewer

American Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

Posted on: April 30, 2015

american craftsmen coverAmerican Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Tom!)










Is it possible to really enjoy a book, but to at the same time be incredibly frustrated with it? It’s completely possible, and doesn’t stop you from enjoying the hell out of something. And it’s the experience I had with Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen.


The book starts with a bang, and gets off to a fantastic start. US Army Captain Dale Morton has his mission switched at the last minute, and something goes terribly wrong, pushing him to contemplate leaving the military. But, he’s a Morton. He *can’t* leave the military. This is where I fell in love with the premise of the novel. Morton is a Craftsman. Passed down through the generations, his family has held magical powers since the creation of the United States. Through agreements with the government, the Craft families have always protected the land and the country.  Along with the other Craftsman families, Morton is part of a secret unit in the US Military.  Unlike other Craft families, Dale can never escape his own family’s past.


Dale was a great point of view character, he’s brave but vulnerable, someone willing take risks and bend the rules when circumstances allow.  And oh, didn’t I mention? He has daily chats with his late grandfather’s ghost, and the house they live in has a personality all it’s own. I loved house!


House protects the Mortons, and keeps the older ghosts trapped in the basement. A few generations ago, a branch of the family, known as the Left Hand branch, went bad. They allowed their magic to be corrupted by greed. Dale knows their power surges through him. He just has to keep it at bay and not fall into the trap of their promises.


You’re gonna love House. You’re also gonna love the Sanctuary and The Gideons.


Ok, that’s most of what I liked. Let me tell you what frustrated me.

For a military fantasy, there were too many guns left on tables. Not military guns, Chekov’s  guns. Early in the plot, Dale saves Scherie’s life, and they become friends. It is painfully obvious from their first meeting that they are going to become romantically entangled. It made their relationship feel forced and choreographed for the sake of the plot, and that was frustrating.  Later on, there is a scene where a character’s healing power is used, but no one can figure out the other person got healed. Well, there wasn’t anyone else around, so, power of elimination? Maybe ask some questions instead of just assuming a good nights sleep cures all? There were times when characters should have figured things out faster, but because the plot needed to go in a certain direction or at a certain pace, they just didn’t figure them out. I found that very frustrating. The further into the novel I got, the more frustrated I became.


I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but Dale has some bat shit crazy relatives.  I wish Doyle had given me more background on those relatives. What exactly did they do? why did they feel justified in doing it? If given more foundation as to Dale’s family, the end of the novel would have have been much more impactful. It makes me wish for a prequel, because i want to know what happened a way long time ago when all these people were going bat shit crazy.


Actually, if Doyle does write a prequel (the sequel, The Left Hand Way, comes out this summer), I hope it’s a first generation craftsman family story.  We get just a smidgen of information about how the first not-yet-Craftsmen married into Native American families, and the combinations of their magics allowed their children and descendents to have stronger magic and become what would be known as the Craft Families. that’s awesome! I wanna know more about that! What was the relationship like between the European men who married the Native American women? What did their families think of marrying someone so different? How did they teach their children how to do the magic that was now slightly different than what the parents knew? That is a story I want to hear.


So, why am I interested in reading further in this series? Why am I interested in reading The Left Hand Way (and maybe if i nag the author enough, he’ll write some prequel short stories or even a novel)?  Easy. Because of what happens at the end of American Craftsmen. Again,not gonna spoil anything, but let’s just say House makes some new friends, and those new friends have the potential to rock American Craft magic off its foundations.  Not only would I like to spend some time with those new friends, but I’d like to know what left hand magic is really about. Dale learns the hard way that plenty of what he took for the gospel truth was a ruse,just another power play. Maybe there’s more truths out there to learn.


Being a military fantasy, American Craftsmen is very action heavy – lots of guns, lots of fight scenes, lots of non-stop-action.  If that sounds like a fun ride to you, you’ll probably have a good time reading this novel. I think much of my user error was based on the fact that I prefer more subtle, less action based stories, and that I just don’t have much experience reading military fiction. I found this novel to be good, but not great. Again, due to my lack of experience with military fantasy, important aspects may have simply been lost in translation.


4 Responses to "American Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle"

Yeah, I also have a lack of experience with military fiction so I’m not sure this one would be for me.
Lynn 😀


I’ve only recently discovered that there is such a thing as contemporary military fantasy (as a genre, I mean, not just a handful of outliers), but I find I really enjoy it.


Ahem. Waiting, ever less patiently, for pictures of the new abobe, book shelves featuring prominently.


they’re just… bookshelves. very unorganized bookshelves.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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