Ilona Andrews books are the work of a solid writing team, and though I tend to avoid most paranormal romance, I thought it was time to give their Edge series a try. On the Edge (review) went well, though it seemed a bit Kate Daniels Lite–milk chocolate version. Bayou Moon, on the other hand, is Kate Daniels Special Dark–dark chocolate version.
It begins with William, the wolf-shape changer from On the Edge. It’s a couple years later and he’s hanging in the Broken, working flooring jobs and drinking beer. A noble from the Weird comes to see him and enlist him in the cause to bring down the lead spymaster for the opposing team. William’s unable to resist the offer, as he’s been on William’s personal to-kill list for years. At the same time, Cerise is working to keep her family’s fiances together when her parents disappear. They live in a multi-generation household in The Mire, an Edge area known for extensive swamps and a very insular lifestyle. Apparently the family’s arch-enemies have decided to re-open the feud by laying claim to her grandparent’s old house. She needs to journey to the Broken to retrieve some documents. Her return trip and William’s entry into the Mire coincide. They work together to navigate the Mire, and on their respective missions, dancing around their attraction for each other.
Narrative flows fairly smoothly, largely with alternating viewpoints between William and Cerise, with occasional intrusions by the Spymaster. Plot moves fairly fast and is generally straightforward, with heavy emphasis on action scenes. There is a significant amount of physical fighting in this book with particular techniques described.
The setting is clearly modeled on the marshy, changeable waterways of deep swamps and is always atmospheric. Both William and Cerise have a connection to the natural world, although for different reasons, and their likes and dislikes of the area help bring it alive. The world-building is generally solid with more focus on the weird creatures than on personal magic or spells. However, there’s some mutation-type magic employed by the Spymaster and his country that adds a fearsome, freaky angle to the story. There’s some mildly confusing Weird politics between the two countries and their spy agencies, the Hand and the Mirror, that play into the reasons for hunting the Spymaster. It’s awkwardly integrated largely because William and Cerise are generally apolitical and insular, although for different reasons.
As always with Andrews, characterization and characters stand out. William’s dual nature is given a realistic feel as he continually works to understand human cues and maintain ‘normal’ responses (much like many introverted people, I might add). Cerise’s extended family is very idiosyncratic with enough development to make the reader unsure of allegiance, and even those with brief appearances provide interest. Unlike the Kate Daniels series, body count of both friend and foe is high–these are life-and-death matters, so there’s an appropriate cost. It might be a shock to those fans of Daniels who rarely encounter a death of characters on the side of ‘good.’
For me, it was a solid diversion. I wanted an immersive read in an interesting world without intellectual or emotional commitment. For fans of romance, I’m not entirely sure it would satisfy; because both Cerise and William are who they are, it takes a long time for them to acknowledge their mutual attraction. On the other hand, as a non-romance reader, I appreciated the relatively uncomplicated romance structure. It also has almost equal emphasis on action/fighting. Overall, enjoyable and slightly more intriguing than On the Edge.