Saturday, January 12, 2008

Urban Fantasy, Anyone?

If I had to pick the genre I choose to read for pleasure right now, it would be urban fantasy. And in the last month, I've read two great books: one by a writer I've read before and the other by a writer new to me.

Iron Kissed is the third in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books. I've written about the series before here.

And I'm thrilled to report that the books just keep getting better. Moon Called established Briggs' world, and Blood Bound allowed her to explore it, extending the boundaries. Now in Iron Kissed, Briggs has found herself. It is head and shoulders above the first two books--which were already pretty good to begin with.

Iron Kissed begins when the fae call in a favor from Mercy. The coyote walker had borrowed a fairy weapon when she needed it. Now the fae need her help in tracking a serial killer who is slaughtering their kind on the Washington state reservation that the U.S. government established for the fairies.

Mercy's efforts identify the killer but, when he's found missing his head, her friend and mentor is mistakingly arrested for his murder. The fae turn their backs on the accused, deciding to sacrifice him rather than risk humans learning their secrets. It's up to Mercy--and her werewolf friends--to find the real killer and get back a collection of missing fae magical artifacts.

One of the things that pleased me was that Briggs resolved the love triangle between Mercy and the two werewolves in her life. I was getting tired of the dance. I liked the way she handled it.

I was so engrossed in the book, I finished it in 24 hours. Obviously, I wasn't the only one to feel this way because Iron Kissed is #1 on Amazon's Urban Fantasy list. I highly recommend it.

The second urban fantasy I bought was Mike Carey's The Devil You Know. I'll be honest to say that, if I hadn't had a Christmas gift card, I might not have bought the book. I don't generally purchase novels in hardcover by authors with whom I'm not familiar. In this case, I'm glad I did.

Mike Carey is an award-winning graphic novel writer. The Devil You Know is the first novel in a series starring Felix Castor, a free-lance exorcist living in London. Castor, who goes by the nickname "Fix," is hired to rid a small but prestigious archive of a bloody-faced female ghost.

The ad copy for the book says, "Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London--just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That's OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It's the living who piss him off..."

Carey's use of language, humor and imagery blew me away. I found myself re-reading passages just because I liked his phrasing. The book is vaguely reminiscent of Jim Butcher's work--a mystery inside a paranormal.

When I finished the book, I immediately went looking for the sequel. Interestingly enough, the second in the series, Vicious Circle, was published first and in paperback.

That book confirmed my impression of the first. While Carey is an unbelievably skilled writer, he has some issues with pacing. The Devil You Know is better written than Vicious Circle, but both are unevenly paced. Still, his great writing style distracted me in the slower sections, and made it less of a problem.

I recommend The Devil You Know, and will look forward to seeing more of Fix Castor.


Jonathan Lyons said...

Just finished IRON KISSED - loved it! It's #1 on the NY Times bestseller list (2 weeks in a row now).

Maya Reynolds said...

Jonathan: Oh, I'm glad you liked it. When I'd first mentioned Briggs on your blog, I hadn't yet read her books. I was a little uneasy about recommending a writer I hadn't read. But I've been very happy with her books.