Friday, February 13, 2009

Seaborn and Night Shift

I'm late, I know. My paltry excuse is that I'd planned my next post to be a "review" of Seaborn by Chris Howard and Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow--two books connected only by my reading them at the same time. In my mind, I toyed with titles like, "Two OK Tastes That Taste OK Together."

To be fair, half of Seaborn is much more than OK. Half of the book follows Corina, a California college student possessed by a seaborn sorcerer. (The book lends itself to alliteration--it's not all my fault!) I didn't know it when Tez's Review prompted me to put Seaborn at the top of my TBR list, but Corina's story is exactly what I've been missing since keeping up with new urban fantasy and close-enough paranormal romance has distanced me from Charles de Lint's back list and old favorites like The Borderland books. She's an interesting heroine with a story I really feel. Howard's on Boskone's 'Men Writing Women' panel tomorrow and Corina makes me sorry I'm going to miss it.

Then there's the other half of the book. Kassandra is a Seaborn royal, exiled to the surface because her grandfather, King Thasaleos, is a murdering son of a bitch. His being such a jerk is the only thing that keeps me from wishing literary harm on Kassandra; I want him to get his in the end so she needs to live long enough to do it. Despite a promising beginning, her story reads like a young adult novel that I did not sign up for. Worse, there are chapters missing--a whole book's worth (that might explain why her dialogue is so tediously stiff) that gets shoehorned in as a few paragraphs of backstory.

It's entirely possible that no one else would be bothered by the narrative mode(s) of the novel. Third person omniscient exists even if it's mostly more "third person limited with multiple characters." In fact, this is mostly that until suddenly we jump heads just long enough for my teeth to itch. In Corina's story, with another consciousness sharing her body, that actually makes sense. In Kassandra's, it's one more reason for me to push through to the end so I can reread the book, skipping her chapters.

And that brings me to Night Shift. I'll usually read one book at a time, but I found myself finishing Corina chapters and thinking, "Well Night Shift is going to have to go back to the library so I'd better read that now."

Working for the Devil grabbed me with its title and its back cover blurb held on until I bought it. I loved the worldbuilding and writing. Unfortunately, if I don't really like Howard's Kassandra, I hated WftD's narrator, Dante Valentine. The feisty, kick-ass woman that books of this type can't do without became bitchy and obnoxious in the form of Dante Valentine. I couldn't stand her, couldn't stand her friends, and couldn't accept that a demon was the only likable character in the novel. Yet, the writing was so damned good that I went back for book two.

I polled the fans, learned that Dante was no better in the third book, and put away my Saintcrow cravings....until I heard about Night Shift. Jill Kismet is a Hunter, trained to walk on the nightside and take down demons and other creatures that make the city streets unsafe for humans. She's already running on empty when five cops are ripped apart and the police need her help more than ever.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lilith Saintcrow will someday make my short list of favorite authors, but "this is not that day." Kismet's setting has the same lovely dark grittiness as Valentine's with a more likable narrator. The upside is that I don't find myself pulling for the bad guys in this book. The downside is that the story doesn't suck me in, and more likable does not translate into loving Kismet.

Flashbacks of Kismet's dead mentor both spice up and slow down the narrative is they explain why the Hunter is so deeply damaged. The hunt for the killer is OK. The possible love interest is OK. It's all just...OK. I keep reading because (1) Saintcrow has a way with descriptions that makes me want to see what else she'll describe, and (2) I need to get to the end in case the next book is the one where all of her impressive talents come together in a story that I won't want to miss.


Julie said...

Cool! Thanks for the reviews. I may have to check some of those out.

An Again said...

Fantastic, Julie! Despite these not being "I love them and think everyone should go buy them NOW!" reviews, I do think these books have something to give the reader and feel they should be checked out. :-)