Mob Rules by Cameron Haley – Review

Book Jacket:

As LA plunges into an occult gang war, mob sorceress Domino Riley must unravel a conspiracy that reaches beyond the magic-soaked mean streets into a world of myth and legend.

Domino investigates the ritual execution of a mob associate, a graffiti magician named Jamal. The kid isn’t just dead, he’s been squeezed — the killer stole his magical power or “juice.” Domino summons Jamal’s shade, and the ghost points to Adan Rashan as his killer. This is tricky, because Adan is the favored son of Domino’s boss, Shanar Rashan, a six-thousand-year-old Sumerian wizard. It’s even trickier because only a mobbed-up sorcerer could have squeezed Jamal and Adan isn’t a sorcerer.

As the corpses pile up, Domino must confront the killer and unmask an otherworldly kingpin with designs on her gang’s magic-rich turf.

You can read an excerpt here.


We’ve got a live one. These days it’s getting harder and harder to find UF that doesn’t feel regurgitated from something we’ve read before, but Mob Rules is just that. This is one of the strongest urban fantasy debuts I’ve read in a long while.

The world is fantastic – Haley creates a system of magic that is all his own, seamlessly blending the supernatural with the seemier side of Los Angeles. Magic, or Juice as they call it, is the ultimate mobster currency, and all the mob’s rackets are aimed at funneling juice to the boss (who is of course, a magician). Domino is the enforcer, her boss’s right hand man; it falls to her to solve a murder and avert a coming war.

This book has an old school mobster vibe – Haley must be a fan of The Godfather – and the texture mob culture brings to the story is fascinating. And as you would expect from a mob story, the fights are all really bad-ass.

There are definitely familiar elements to this story – vampires, magic artifacts, the fey – but clichéd as it sounds, this really is a fresh take on old paradigms, and it has a very modern flare – Domino speaks with the dead through her favorite internet search engine, and her djinn lives in her busted old TV. I also LOVE how Haley nails Los Angeles, from Beverly Hills to Hawthorn, he has the city down to a tee. I was chuckling at some of his ironic descriptions of the area, and recognized a lot of places he described as places I’ve driven by.

Domino is an interesting character – she’s not a saint, she’s a mob enforcer, and she’s not entirely certain she likes herself at times. She struggles with her own morality, but it never mires down the story – she never angsts, she never waffles, this is a woman who knows her own mind and takes the consequences head on. There is a love interest in this story, but it’s a secondary plot. And while it didn’t do a whole lot for me, it didn’t put me off either.

The beginning and the end of this book are very strong – unfortunately the second act falls apart. The investigation stalls and wanders and Domino’s personal life bogs down the tempo. I also started to get a little nervous that the book was in danger of face-planting in some very tired UF tropes, but thankfully it skirted the cliches and quickly righted itself for a fantastic ending.

An interesting character, an intriguing world, and a solid ending that wraps up the battle but sets up an even larger war. This book may not be perfect, but it is a solid debut and I really like where this series is headed. Definitely check this one out – I know I’ll be picking up the next book in the Underworld Cycle.

Byrt Grade: B

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Fresh Fiction says:

Cameron Haley tells his story with a lot of panache. It’s a good story, well-told; funny, but he gives you plenty to think about too. Welcome to book one of The Underworld Cycle series.

Dreams and Speculation says:

I think The Underworld Cycle will pick up steam as it goes–a theory I plan to test when I read the second book whenever it gets released.  The plot of this first installment isn’t as brave as it needs to be, but Haley gets the voice and character perfectly