Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Some UF on the Dark Side

I like dark and gritty. Life ain't all rainbows and unicorns and I do enjoy a good read that jumps on that fact and rides it to the end. This time I've got a Noirish UF set in Vegas, and a road trip book that is not a pleasant excursion to the beach.

The Taken (Celestial Blues #1) by Vicki Pettersson

Think a more violent and sexual His Girl Friday.

Griffin Shaw is an angel, of sorts, who ferries the recently departed to their next stop. Originally he was a `50s Vegas PI, but since he can't get past the murder of himself and his wife he is stuck on angelic escort detail. Then in a moment of compassion he breaks the rules and is punished by becoming flesh and blood again. He's also forced into the company of one Kit Craig, a rockabilly reporter who is marked for death because of Grif's lapse. She is investigating a prostitution ring whose reach goes to the very top of Vegas' elite. There are 2 mysteries at play here, as well as visits to old mobsters, crooked cops, murders, and a pretty horrific secret underneath the sex ring.

This is a dark UF with noir tones. I really liked both Kit and Grif. They make a very good team even when they bicker. Kit lives a nostalgic lifestyle dressing and living as though she were from the 50s. Grif is actually from the 50s and doesn't understand the idealized view of his era, though he definitely looks the part. I enjoyed the details in the clothing and hairstyles. I didn't know much about rockabilly coming into this book, so sometimes my curiosity over the clothes and the lifestyle took me out of the story for a bit. It didn't last long though, and I liked how both stayed true to character.

There is also a different take on angels here too. I wouldn't say that they like people all that much (a common theme among many of the recent angel-inspired tales I've read). If you are a person who cannot take a different view of angels, God, etc then you'll probably have issues. I enjoyed Pettersson's take on the heavenly host, especially Anas. I almost wish that we had a little more with her as her character's progression was one of my favorite parts.

I also really liked the overall theme of what it means to live. It resonated with me.

Not everything is solved, but it still was a satisfying ending and I'll be reading the next book in this series, as well as checking out Pettersson's other UF.

[I received a copy of this to review for Amazon Vine.]

Blackbirds (Miriam Black 1) by Chuck Wendig

The majority of this book takes place on lonely highways in between cities, pockets of life. Fitting, since Miriam is not exactly the homey type, and where she goes, death is not far off.

It's dirty, crass, brutal, violent, ugly, swear-filled but not one where I was left at the end devoid of any spark of hope. When I started the book, I wouldn't have thought that to be the case, to be honest. Many books showcase the more heroic side of people with "superpowers". This one starts with someone who has been destroyed by hers.

Miriam can see death. If she touches someone, she knows how and when they die. Past experience has taught her that she can't change fate. She lives a nomad's life, acting as a vulture at death. Stealing enough to get by on and moving on. She drinks, smokes, swears and is generally as nasty as possible so that no one gets close.

Then of course, someone does. She sees his death and knows she is a part of it.

And that's all I am going to say about specific events in the book. You are just going to have to read it and experience every dark, knife-studded curve for yourself.

The narrative does jump around a bit, but I never had trouble following. It was very interesting to see how Miriam got to the point where we find her at the beginning, and how her character progresses to the end. It's not a complete end - there is more than enough here for moe books, but the main issue is solved (no cliffhangers).

The one thing that I would have liked more insight on was Louis - why he does what he does with Miriam.

Overall I really liked this book - not so much that I liked the characters, but I was drawn into the story and I wanted to know how they all made out. Liking the characters isn't a requirement; they just have to be interesting. Wendig's characters are 100% interesting.

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