Sunday, August 19, 2007

Slightly underwhelming

It's hard to read this book without thinking about Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake or Meredith Gentry series. It's about three sisters, a witch, a shapechanger, and a vampire, who are also half-faery. They work for OIA (Otherworld Intelligence Agency), a sort of magical law enforcement agency on earth, but they grew up in Otherworld, and so Earth is new and unfamiliar to them, except for stories their human mother told them before she died.

The heroine is Camille, the witch sister, whose spells unfortunately are unpredictable. As with Anita Blake's world, the monsters and magical things of Otherworld are living side-by-side with humans, but not exactly without friction. There are those who idolize and fantasize about the newcomers, and there are those who launch protests against them. A murder opens the book - an OIA operative who also happened to be a giant has been garroted. All signs point to demons, and it becomes apparent that a big bad demon has sent three demon scouts through to Earth, and they are looking for certain artifacts that will allow them to rule over earth - unless Camille and her sisters track down the artifacts first.

There were many things I liked about this book - surprising, fun things, such as the fact that the shapechanging sister turns into a little kittycat instead of a fierce leopard or tiger, and the little baby gargoyle that Camille rescues is charming. But as I read, I couldn't help wishing for a Hamilton novel instead - tight prose, complicated, believable characters, fast pacing.

This novel reads like a first draft - it takes off in sections, but has rough patches that need some editing, wooden characterization, dialog that is simply not believable, and way too many contradictions. It actually makes me a bit angry that publishers allow books in this state to be printed. It's as though they have so little respect for their intended audience that they figure it won't matter anyway. For example, on one page, the narrator says her sister is "a hair over six feet," and just two pages later, she's suddenly "an inch over six feet." Things like that kept happening to throw me out of the story and into editorial mode.

I also wished for a more otherworldly feel from these characters. Camille keeps saying how different they are from humans, but I didn't see that. There was nothing to differentiate Camille's outlook from a human character's. Still, there were fun and interesting elements, and for those who enjoy urban/dark fantasy, this series is worth a try. The second book is called Changeling and is from the point of view of the kittycat sister.

Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn (Berkley Books, 2006)

6 comments:

  1. I am thinking of trying this one down the road. I know what you mean though about comparing books in this genre to Hamilton's books. :-)

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  2. She sure is a hard act to follow. I did read two other books on vacation (reviews to follow) that, coincidentally, both involved faerie, and they were great! I may try the next one in Galenorn's series - it seems unfair to judge a writer based only on a first novel, and it did have some fun parts. It felt kind of like it couldn't decide whether to be funny or romantic or suspenseful, and that was kind of jarring. Maybe she will figure that out in the next one!

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  3. Sounds like the author has talent, but lacks in the skill department. At least the latter is fixable; hopefully she'll continue to learn and improve.

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  4. I do want to try this series, I like her books on witchcraft especially Embracing the Moon. I am still quite new to LKH having only read the first 6 books.

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  5. Heather - I completely agree! I will give the next book a chance (but it will have to wait - I have such a huge pile of books waiting for me!).

    Rhinoa - I haven't read her books on witchcraft. I took a look at her books on Amazon, and I think that Witchling must be her first fictional book, and it is quite a transition to go from nonfiction to a novel. Are you enjoying the LKH books? I think those definitely got better as the series went along. She is a master at ratcheting up the tension!

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  6. Oh man....I bought Changeling at Border's before vacation. One of their summer reading books, Buy 3 get one Free things. Now, I JUST realized it's number 2 in a series!! BUMMER! Looks like I'll have to grab the first one now!

    Although you were kind of lukewarm on this one, it still sounds pretty good!

    Glad to see you back from vacation!

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