Sin and Shadows
by Lyn Benedict
This is an intriguing blend of Maltese Falcon style noir and paranormal elements, and I was generally pleased with the brisk plot, interesting characters, and reasonably surprising ending. I wasn’t totally prepared for how dark the tone was, and the mis en scene start caught me a bit flat footed, but once the ground settled I was drawn in and will certainly pick up the next in the series. Really, the only drawback was a tendency to whine on the part of the lead. But this is a complaint that can be leveled at 99.9% of Urban Fantasy. And this flaw was more than accounted for by the fact that our heroine had all of no superpowers that magically downloaded while her enemies swarmed her-unless you count being willing and able to kill things/people. Basically, the possible demi-god of justice hires/blackmails our lead Sylvie into helping him hunt his missing lover. Along the way the plot smacks into the story of Lilith and exile from Eden. All sorts of supernatural creatures pop up and no one, from Sylvie to any of the extras is wholly good or evil. Which gets a gold star from me. There are some unwelcome Angels in the Outfield bits, but I enjoy that, like in Supernatural, they’re dicks.
by Kristen Callihan
This was such a random buy, and boy were my expectations low. It’s a paranormal regency romance. It has enormous fun with the tropes of both genres and creates a froth that tastes a bit like syllabub and is just as enjoyable. The characters are engaging, recognizable as both Regency and Urban archetypes (not a bad thing when done purposefully and with an agenda) and the plot moves swiftly and maintains interest. A man who’s been cursed with eternal life and a girl who’s a pyro fall in lurv and are stalked by a crazy cultist. Magic and/or lurv save them. And the heroine is surprisingly kick ass without seeming ridiculous for regency. Of course, there are a lot of twists that a careful reader will see coming, but I didn’t really feel too irritated by them. This isn’t fiction to change your life, but strangely, I feel that way too many straight up Urban Fantasy writers should be taking notes on how to craft entertainment without resorting to cheap sex scenes. Yeah. The romance novel does it right, how weird is that?
by Diana Rowland
This is an improvement over the first book, make no mistake. Something is sucking out souls in our tiny Louisiana township and our resident demon summoner and her FBI pals are on the case. Which involves rich dead folk, an increasing amount of weird from her BFF partner, and the looming threat that her aunt’s comma will become permanent. The meta-narrative is starting to shape up nicely as well. There seems to be a lot more going on with her Demonic Lord then just smexy times and snarky small talk. Or even world domination. I’ll admit to being intrigued. The plot is still brisk, the characters deeper and their interactions both believable and seemingly related to the plot and each other. BUT. We’ve still got a ways to go on making the mystery believable. The villain is still easily spotted, the mystery not all that compelling. Hell, even a few of the set piece ‘dangers’ are pretty familiar. What bothers me most, however, is the weird sense I get that our lead, Kara, is being punished for being sexually active. Like it’s naughty. Dunno, maybe that’s all in my head. However, it’s still interesting enough that I read it fast and wanted to read the next one, so complaints aside, a solid second entry.
by Alison Pang
Wait, you mean I paid the monies for a sequel to A Brush of Darkness? After slamming it mercilessly? Well, yes. And this is one of those rare instances where a crap-tastic first novel is followed by a pretty darned enjoyable second. So many, many of the problems that I despised in the first are fixed or absent in this one. And honestly, I can’t even say to pick up the first in discount or used bins though, just skip it and jump straight in with this. This time we’ve got another round of AWOL Moira, but now it’s complicated with ½ angel babies, imposter regents, the closing of the gates between Faerie and our world, and Abby’s Past with a capitol P. The snark works, and the dialogue is snippy, fast and really enjoyable-to the point of actually being funny at times. Once our heroine gets into faerie, things get interesting I enjoyed the depiction of the court system and (maybe intentionally, maybe not) LOL’d lots at the depictions of the demon army as goth rock skater types. Everyone’s back story gets deeper, murkier, and stronger, and even the succubus ex isn’t entirely irritating. And the cliffhanger ending, while super convoluted and I’m still not 100% on board with it, did leave me wanting more. Overall, a pleasant surprise.
by Christina Henry
On the less pleasant side, the Black Wings novels seem to be heading in the other direction. While the first book was interesting and novel, the subsequent ones have been less and less so. This outing, Maddie Black is still dealing with her new role as Lucifer’s favourite, and now ghosts are walking around without an approved and time stamped agent of death to aid in the transition. And the werewolf pack she befriended last time is in trouble. The plot moves quickly, but there are few surprises, including the fact that the two big twist are so obvious that any close reader, or one familiar with genre tropes will see them coming from miles off. The villains are villainous, mostly just for the sake of being evil, and the good guys are as often annoying as they are brilliant/resourceful/fun. But what’s most depressing is that this book could function as a master class on why actual human speech, or even emotional head space is NOT THE SAME as well written dialogue or exposition. Just because I obsess about stupid shit, or have the same conversation six times with my roommate before she gets the point doesn’t mean I want or will enjoy reading that. Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s good. The fine line between real and realistic was lost here. A lot. To the point that one conversation repeated every time our heroes did anything. And isn’t belaboring the point obnoxious? J I may have hit the point where I get the next one used and see if there’s any improvement. Sigh.
A note on Grading: on my Scale A=I might buy the hardback; B=pay trade cover price; C=get it used or from the bargain bin; D=used if you’re in to self flagellation; F=what, are you stupid?