Jul 19, 2009
YetiReview: Unclean Spirits
21 Words or Less: An Urban Fantasy offering that doesn’t try to reinvent the genre but is so well written it doesn’t need to.
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Good: Excellent Urban Fantasy, great characters I want to see more of, natural dialogue, fast-reading prose.
The Bad: The cover, some gender specific details are jarring, a few “paranormal romance” tropes, the cover
Unclean Spirits is the debut novel in the Black Sun’s Daughter series. The story itself is simple: Jayne Heller inherits her uncle’s fortune and accepts his legacy as well, setting out to finish the job he died attempting and to kill the man responsible for his death. We get the typical cast of characters complete with questionable loyalties, mysterious pasts, and more than a hint of sexual tension.
Sounds like a typical Urban Fantasy book, right? In some respects it is; Unclean Spirits doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground. But what it lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for in quality. There’s a lot of Urban Fantasy books out there, some good, some bad, most falling somewhere in the middle. Unclean Spirits reads like Hanover/Abraham consumed everything he could, both good and bad, really thought about what worked and what didn’t, and then sat down and wrote a novel. There’s angst without being whiny, humor without being cliché or punny, inter-character chemistry that is subtle and natural. The bad guys don’t summarize their plots while waiting for the characters to recover and there isn’t a leather trenchcoat with bottomless pockets of just the perfect solution for the situation at hand. All of the characters are interesting and mysterious enough to want to see more. Unclean Spirits is everything that’s right with the genre with almost none of the wrong.
Abraham makes it look easy. The dialogue feels realistic, like something you might actually hear real twenty-somethingse say while moving the story quickly along with a “show don’t tell” style that is a lot more rare than you’d think. Like most Urban Fantasy, the story is very character driven and my enjoyment of the book really stemmed from their interactions. All of the characters worked as they were really written but I felt like Midian really stole every scene he was in. His dark humor and calm collectedness really complemented Jayne’s gradual entry into the world of “riders” and magic. His aptitude for cooking and poker prowess were also brilliant touches, a natural result of two hundred years of life experience.
In the end, the dialogue, the characters, and everything else really worked well together, making Unclean Spirits a fun, fast read that was well worth my time.
The only grievances I had with Unclean Spirits were more on my end than on Hanover’s/Abraham’s. The story is written from a first person perspective and in most FP narratives, it’s extremely easy to get into the main character. Unclean Spirits is no exception. There's nothing wrong with that but Jayne’s a woman. I’m not. The only problems arose when there was a distinctly feminine detail that I couldn’t identify with. For example, at one point, Jayne is picking out some clothes and realizing that none of her shirts would hide any of her clean bras. That’s not a problem I’ve ever had. Now there isn’t anything wrong with these details, they just made the book occasionally (and it’s very very occasionally at that) jarring for me as a reader, compounded by my awareness that it was a male writer writing a female perspective. But again, this was my issue as a reader not a problem with Abraham’s/Hanover’s writing. In much the same way, I had a few problems with the pace at which some of the relationships in the story developed. They were a little fast for me, but again that’s my own personal bias. It’s most likely not an issue for most readers.
I also had some minor qualms with how the magic system (and Jayne’s seemingly innate abilities) were’t fully fleshed out in Unclean Spirits and some of the character back stories remained untold. These aren’t necessarily bad things as I’m sure these details will come to light in future volumes. While Abraham/Hanover probably could have provided more detail, the results might have felt forced or unnatural especially considering that no one was fully aware at the full extent of Eric Heller’s work before his death. Again, it boils down to the Show don’t Tell writing philosophy that Abraham deftly utilizes. Not to mention that the hints at a deeper story leave the reader looking forward to the next volume. I know I am.
As I mentioned in my apology earlier, the first book was a gift from Mr. Abraham. I’ll definitely be buying the next one myself.
Posted by Patrick at 7/19/2009 07:45:00 PM