Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | |

Two Sides to Every Story: Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover (aka Daniel Abraham)

Warning: This book contains adult language and sexual content.

Bryce's Take:

Unclean Spirits is the first book in Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter urban fantasy series. So far, there are two books, the second being Darker Angels. The third book, Vicious Grace is due later this year.

The book tells the story of Janyé, a college dropout who learns that the death of her uncle Eric has suddenly, and quite completely, changed her life. Not all of these changes are for the better. As with all urban fantasy, we quickly learn that all of the creepy crawlies from our nightmares are quite real. This series deals (so far) with these demons as unclean spirits that inhabit the bodies of their victims, allowing them to move about in our world and to reproduce and do whatever it is really bad things do with their free time. Along the way, we'll meet some pretty nasty fellows, including the bad guy of this book, a Mr. Coin. What can I say? Money is the root of all evil.

Janyé is a strong character, and I enjoyed spending time in her head. Hanover (Abraham) does a solid job writing a woman who is complex, and sexual without being your cliché bombshell. The other characters feel very much like the characters from Jim Butcher's Dresden files. They're not terribly deep just yet but, given enough books, they'll be much more fleshed out.

Of course, there's a romance in the book between Janyé and a man named Aubrey. I have to admit that I was impressed with how it took center stage in a lot of the decisions the characters made, but wasn't over-done so that I was throwing up in my mouth a little.You see, I like a little romance in my urban fantasy, rather than a little urban fantasy in my romance novels, and Hanover has catered to people like me. I just don't feel like romance needs to be the center of every urban fantasy out there, and I'm tired of the blonde bombshell heroines in their leather pants. Thankfully, the romance is well done and the only leather was worn by men on motorcycles, so we're cool.

Probably the thing that I would praise most about this book was that it was "smart." Now, just saying that doesn't mean much. What I'm trying to say is that people thought things through, debated with one another, and formed logical plans. And when everything went straight to hell, it did so in a logical manner. The bad guy seemed realistic, and their try/fail cycles (look it up, ye un-writerly) made sense. It was "smart" urban fantasy, rather that a story about some busty blonde that falls in love with a zombie/werewolf/biker/night-shift manager and somehow learns that all things other-wordly are real, and goes out to right the wrongs. It was the story of a woman seeking revenge against a bastard that had killed her favorite relative and was after the closest thing she had to friends, and that makes sense.

Now, I haven't read a ton of urban fantasy, maybe only twenty books or so, so you'll have to forgive my ignorance. A question, though. Does everyone have to have the crap beat out of them at the beginning and the end of the book? It just seems like this happens a lot, and if I ever write an urban fantasy, I'm going to try to stay away from this.

Unclean Spirits (8.75/10) is a very solid beginning to an urban fantasy series that I'm sure I'll enjoy. It keeps the clichés to a minimum while still playing with elements familiar to fans of the genre. I'll look forward to reading Darker Angels soon and giving a full report.

Darren's Take:

Unclean Spirits was an interesting  book in and of itself, but I think it represents a great step towards respectability for one group of writers: men who write female characters. There are quite a few people (women mostly, though I hope no one gets angry at me for pointing out that distinction) that think that men are frankly unqualified to write women, though there are those who take it far enough that it seems they feel men are drooling idiots when it comes to anything with breasts (which is actually possible, now that I think about it). There are even panels about male authors who write female characters at such places as LTUE, etc. I believe it was Tracy Hickman who said something to the amount of "Men write women as men with breasts" and I think he has a fair point, FOR THE MOST PART. MLN Hanover (Daniel Abraham) is quite the exception. His main character, Janye`, is not only emotionally believable, but as Bryce said, she's not the buxom superhero we normally see. Superhero, maybe. Buxom, I dunno, it never mentions that, but the point is, she's real enough to form an emotional bond with. Maybe it was just me, but I kind of understand what she's going through (at least at the start) with the whole family doesn't understand you, college dropout, nowhere to go, few friends thing. I've been there( I'm still kind of there) and that made the book speak to me more than I think it otherwise would. I'll not go on long, because Bryce already said all that needs saying about the plot and such, but I will agree that I look forward to the next two books, and the next ten if it so happens. I like this writing style, and it's quite interesting to note that it is completely different from his style in Long Price Quartet. I give it a 9 out of 10.


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