June 12th, 2010

Ilona Andrews, _Magic Bleeds_ (kindle)

Ace publishing, which means Penguin, but the release date was late enough that I didn't have to wait particularly to read it on the kindle.

This fourth entry in an urban fantasy series set in an alternate Atlanta which has waves which change the world from the natural laws we know ("tech") and a whole 'nother set ("magic"). Over the last three books, Our Heroine has rejoined the Order, sort of, to attempt to solve/avenge the murder of her friend/guardian/sort of relative Greg; met Curran, Beast Lord, alpha of alphas among the shapeshifters; repeatedly fended off various overtures from magic-user extraordinaire Saiman, descended from Norse characters (a deity and a giant) and some number of humans; fought in a monster-magic tournament; and tried to avoid her necromantic father Roland and his minions. Also, interacted with other necromancers and their vampires, adopted a girl and became BFFs with Andrea, the knight-beastkin.

In this outing (hey, huge spoilers; you _know_ how this works, unless you got here through google), she finally commits to Curran, leaves the Order, has a substantive falling out with her BFF, meets her Aunt Erra and kills her. There's a lot of build-up to the meeting, and the killing takes a while, since they first have to work their way through Erra's seven whatsits (she's necromancing undead mages, so you can sort of see that this would not be easy). The events do not occur in the order I summarized.

I'm a little worried about this series, because the curse Erra emits to her niece as her niece is killing her is: "Die Alone". We've heard this curse in the Dresden Files, and my regular readers know how I now feel about that series. This series also has some violence within intimate relationships, altho it feels very different to me. In Butcher's books, the violence is this sort of stomach-churning omg how could this person do this to me, oh, I guess I have to forgive you because that's your nature but can I ever trust you and now I have to beat you up to make you sober up etc. thing. In Andrews' books, a lot of the violence between Our Heroine and His Furriness is, to put it bluntly, foreplay.

I'm not sure that's better.

I'm planning on buying the next one; I'm still enjoying these. But I'm prepared for that to change horrifyingly quickly in a way that causes me to reinterpret the earlier entries negatively.

_A Wolf at Her Door_, Kate Willoughby (kindle)

This is an Ellora's Cave e-published only book. You can get a kindle version, but there are other e-versions out there, too. I usually summarize what EC is, but I'm going to assume my regular readers recall at this point, and just summarize what in particular is explicit in this novel: light bondage, explicit heterosexual sex between Our Hero and Our Heroine (oral, manual and tab P slot V; no anal); a passing reference to some kinky werewolf stuff (that takes the scandalous change-on-TV of the Kitty series and makes it look tame, tame, tame). This is straight romance -- it isn't urban fantasy. And let me tell you, having just finished it, I almost can't get over how weird that feels.

In this universe, there are wish-granting fairies (an entire organization with governmental aspects, in fact), werewolves and an unknown amount of other magic going on. Three human women get drunk and make wishes to go with some bracelets they bought on vacation that supposedly grant wishes if you wear them until they fall off. Supposedly = actually. I suspect there's another novel in this series out there already and a third after this one, but I haven't checked yet (all right, hang on: yes, _All In_ is the first book, this is the second; dunno about the third). It stands alone just fine. Our Heroine, who rates hotels for a living (someone has to, I guess) likes her romances erotic with alpha male werewolves -- she's got a whole list of scenes she'd like to live with a Real Life Werewolf.

Davina, the fairy, goes all out and calls in a favor from an actual werewolf. When he's not furry, he's a nature photographer. 24 hours isn't enough to do everything on Our Heroine's list, so there's sort of an extension and then our pair continues after without further magical assistance. The interspecies nature of the romance limits its permanence: shifter/human matings can work and might produce offspring but at some risk to a human mother and greater risk to the children. As our hero and heroine are contemplating their future collaborating on a coffee table guide to small eateries and trying to avoid thinking about that problem, one of Davina's colleagues sniffs around, finds out about Davina's extracurricular assistance and gets the wish nullified. Enforcement of the "purge" of the werewolf's memories is handled spectacularly poorly (not by the author; it actually does provide tension, and weirdly plausibly) and when he recovers, his offer is a wish of his own in exchange for not doing the magic-world equivalent of suing the crap out of the Universal Wish Federation.

I can't say there are no politics in this book, since there's the colleague trying to get Davina in trouble, and there are clearly issues experienced by shifters about having to live closeted. But the politics are very, very different from urban fantasy series, or at least any of the ones I've read. Werewolf sexuality isn't especially different from human, and the furry are not depicted as being creatures of passion. There's no pack hierarchy depicted at all within the context of the story, much less any long-standing dangerous simmering conflict with other supes. And there's no indication that furriness is catching, removing that element of tension. This is a very normal, light-hearted, heterosexual romance between a couple people who met by chance, were really attracted to each other, weren't at all certain whether they wanted a future together (either themselves or each other), with some fairly serious but manageable issues standing in the way. The climax is provided by outsiders fucking up hugely in an extremely bureaucratic way -- there's something unbelievably creepy thinking about a supernatural world in which Our Hero gets hurt really bad and possibly permanently stuck in furry, not because of a war or a curse, but because an idiot got subbed in to do a job he didn't know how to do. What we have here is a book where the resolving tension is provided by a Big Miss in which there was no misunderstanding between the principals, and the external misunderstanding wasn't anything you would expect it to be.

It was a little silly, but fun, and it held together surprisingly well. I'm sure I'll be reading _All In_ (book 1) shortly.

This was another of the books I picked up when I was trying to figure out whether I could satisfy my trashy reading desires with e-only publications. Specifically, I bought it when I was digging around in the Eppie award winners: Best Fantasy/Paranormal Erotic in 2009.