Good heavens, most of the reviews GR shows on the first page are so full of fangirl squeeing that I can’t read for the gifs and shouting fonts. It makes me want to hate the book out of naturally iconoclastic tendencies. However, as the Andrews continue to write a first rate urban fantasy series, I am unable to indulge–although I confess I did not reach squee-worthy heights.
The briefest of synopsis: Curran and Consort are invited to Europe to protect a pregnant were involved in a major dispute between European shapeshifter packs. Although everyone believes it is some kind of trap, they go because of the lure of panacea, a treatment for loupism that could have dramatic and personal impact on survival rates for Pack children.
Although I was initially concerned a change in location could prove disastrous, it turned out very, very well by creating opportunities to explore exotic mythologies and take readers on a pleasure cruise through post-Shift world. (And by ‘pleasure cruise,’ I mean ‘pirate fight’). New setting, different politics, creative species and still some progression in the overall series arc results in a solid entry into the Kate Daniels storyline while retaining enough independence to stand on its own.
Andrews shines in building dramatic tension. As usual, I meant to put down the book to go to sleep on time, but found making the “just another chapter” promise… right up until I finished. The plot contains preparation, journey, and hostile-territory politics, so there’s plenty of opportunities for dramatic tension. Fight scenes were fabulous. Although Andrews have referred to them on their blog as “requiring rework,” their frustration doesn’t show, and the insistence on reworking results in a quality payout. One of my favorite scenes in the book was Kate’s fight with a certain swordsman.
Plotting was interesting, although I found myself somewhat conflicted after finishing. The ‘trap’ twist was a complete surprise, an achievement considering expectations for duplicity. I consider the ability to surprise readers on book six of a series to be an impressive feat–far too many authors are content to rework the same formula that has proven successful for them. However, there were a few too many happy coincidences for me, particularly towards the end
[SPOILER] Saiman’s body-double work, the intervention of the Shepherd and Christopher the herbalist all stand out as particularly convenient].
While I wouldn’t have liked it, a more emotionally powerful ending would have lacked a solution to the switch. It would have been a bold authorial move, and would have allowed population stability to stay relatively stable. Sure, it would be crushing. But it would also have been audacious. As it was, it felt like one of those movies whose ending didn’t screen well resulting in the tacked on “happily-ever-after” version (hello, I Am Legend).
Character growth was also interesting. Supporting characters stand out as usual, particularly Barabas and Aunt B. In the guest appearances category, I especially liked the Shepherd and his small but solid friend. Kate is more influenced by her emotions than in prior books, less able to be her strategic problem-solving self, and it shows in her interpretations and narration. I think overall, it achieved a greater emotional complexity with the relationship issues than most UF. I will say that the relationship between her and Curran continues to make me uncomfortable. Saiman hits it on the head when he notes, “you both think violence is foreplay.” By the way, fanpeeps, Curran is not “hot,” “sexy,” or whatever charged word you want to use to imply some kind of urban fantasy alpha-male desirability. He’s domineering, arrogant and controlling. Please don’t gush all over your review or confuse his behavior with something acceptable in real life. This book, more than any of the others, demonstrates the extent of Kate and Curran’s damaged personalities.
Why not five stars? Because I really, really, can’t get my groove on over a star-crossed-lovers storyline and because the plotting requires some reader buy-in at exposition and ending (Really? The most dominant Pack members are allowed to go on a potential suicide mission?). Still, a great read.