I’ve been tearing through my pile of books lately, so I thought rather than offering an in-depth review of just one, I’d give you the quick and dirty on several.
“Midnight Never Come” by Marie Brennan (2008, Historical Urban Fantasy, 379 pages)
What’s it about?: Set during the reign of Tudor Queen Elizabeth, Midnight Never Come explores the dark magic binding Elizabeth’s mortal court to the underground Onyx Court of the Fey Queen Invidiana. Part mystery, part romance, the story follows a mortal man and fey woman caught up in the political intrigue uniting the two courts.
Pros: Lovely prose, lots of satisfying moral ambiguity, and great research woven into a compelling plot (rather than being inserted in dull infodumps).
Cons: slow to start; a sense of urgency and investment in the characters didn’t really flower (for me) until the book’s midpoint.
“Mark of the Demon” by Diana Rowland (2009, Urban Fantasy, 370 pages)
What’s it about?: Kara, a demon-summoner and Homicide Detective with the Louisiana PD, gets assigned to a brutal serial killer case with arcane ties. Caught between the attentions of a Demon Lord and an uptight FBI agent, Kara races to catch the Symbol Man Killer before he catches her.
Pros: a fast, fun read; explorations of the demon world are particularly compelling. Some good red herrings.
Cons: a confusing array of very similar supporting characters and some plot transparency (those red herrings didn’t throw me off for long).
“The Heir of Night” by Helen Lowe (2010, Fantasy, 447 pages)
What’s it about?: The Nine Houses of the Derai have traveled through space to the planet Haarth, fleeing their ancient enemies, the Darkswarm. In Haarth’s bitter mountains, they’ve built a stronghold to hold back the Darkswarm invasion, but have rejected the ancient magic needed to triumph. Malian, heir to the House of Night, possesses the magic needed to defend her people, if only they will accept it.
Pros: the concept here is very cool. The Derai are harsh interlopers on Haarth, having brought a curse down on the planet, and the relationship between them and the indigenous cultures is deftly handled. I also really like the mix of science fiction and fantasy.
Cons: as the story progresses, more and more of it takes place in a dreamscape. I’ve never been a fan of this plot device and I sometimes found it hard to tell if something was happening in reality or in dreams. Also, it should be noted that Heir of Night is the first in a series and is not a stand-alone book – it ends having wrapped up very few of the hanging plot threads.
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick (1968, Science Fiction, 244 pages)
What’s it about?: A bleak exploration of what it means to be human in a post-apocalyptic world, Do Androids Dream follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he endeavors to “retire” a record number of renegade androids in just one day.
Pros: Dick is a master of thoughtful, unsettling stories and this one is no exception. Deckard’s inner struggle with his feelings towards the androids he’s set on killing, as well as his yearning for a real live animal to call his own (along with all the complicated feelings and motivations behind this), make for a genuinely thought-provoking social commentary.
Cons: like any book meant as a social commentary, Do Androids Dream is depressing and (depressingly) prescient.
Okay…that’s four from me. What have YOU read lately, and do you recommend it or not?