The urban fantasy market feels overcrowded, but Hailey Edwards is one of the few that has gets my attention, beginning with The Beginners Guide to Necromancy, a fun series that kept me going during quarantine. As lockdown lifted, I lost my UF tolerance and didn’t branch out to Bayou Born, despite recommendations from friends. I rediscovered Bayou while cleaning off my kindle and thought it would be a fun candy break between a wrenching Scholomance re-read and the meaty Cage of Souls. Bayou delivered, along with some unexpected twists.
It begins with a common fantasy trope, the orphan with the mysterious past. An amnesiac teenage Luce was discovered in a local bayou, then adopted by a local police officer, and grew up to become a police officer in the same department. Currently Luce is assisting with the search for a missing woman when a second woman is discovered injured in the same swamp Luce was found, with nearly identical inlaid tattoos. What follows is as much of story about discovering heritage as it is a missing persons case, so your enjoyment may depend on your ability to tolerate that more new-adult developmental focus.
In fact, the first chapter is decidedly ambiguous, with a mysterious caller–it’s not clear if it’s a father figure or love interest, and after reading a couple of choice phrases, I was about ready to quit. Honestly, tell me this isn’t horrible: “Heavy silence roared until I got lightheaded from waiting. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t–‘Luce,’ Ezra husked, my name a benediction on his lips.'”
Excuse me. I think I just regurgitated a little.
But I persevered, because I had all those fond quarantine-memories of the Necromancy series (and now we’re starting to understand my self-diagnosed ‘quarantine-brain’ affliction) and it switched gears into the mystery of the unconscious ‘Jane Doe’ and the mysterious group of security agents hired to protect her. Edwards’ style tends to be action-oriented/ problem-solving characters over ones that do a lot of navel gazing, so events did a nice job of pulling me along.
The majority of the book is Luce-focused, but by the end, there’s more of an ensemble cast. By the end, it felt like the pilot episode of a new tv series. Supporting cast is done reasonably well, although it was still a male-dominated book. The refrigerator female trope makes an appearance. It is nice that Luce is a police officer, which is a profession dominated by men, especially in small towns, but with her father as a primary emotional figure, a male police partner and a male potential lust interest, it means there isn’t a lot of room made for emotional connection to women (saying more would be spoilery, I think). It is not unusual for the genre, or even Edwards’ other books, but something that I definitely noticed and wished was otherwise. It seems to be a hallmark of paranormal romance books.
Writing is competent for genre, with only a few missteps like I noted earlier. I know, I know, sounds like I’m damning with faint praise. But Edwards is very readable. There is that annoying paranormal tendency to over-adjective hair, lips and pulses, but overall, competent.
And the plot is steady. If Luce is not the best investigator in the world, it’s because she isn’t–she’s mostly a small town beat cop who has gotten personally involved. As the story develops, it goes in a couple of unpredictable directions. However, the dual mysteries dovetail nicely, if quite unusually. I’m not altogether sure I like the direction it went, but I think it was done well. More is definitely a spoiler, which I’ll mark for my own benefit. I’m fairly doubtful I’ll be continuing the series because of it.
Re-readable? Nah. Deletable? Probably.