Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Haunted and Dead Beat

What a difference a good heroine makes.

As a rule, Kelley Armstrong knows how to write strong women characters. Her women can kick ass when necessary, but are capable of compassion. In other words, no bitter women with a chip on their shoulders. She also doesn't write women who spend the entire story bickering needlessly with the male lead. The women are sexy, and the men are hot, but there is more to the storyline than an excuse for sex scenes.

Eve Levine, the protagonist in Haunted, is a shade of her former self. Literally. She's dead. Her days are spent in a version of the afterlife that resembles that in the movie "What Dreams May Come." Basically, residents of this afterlife can mold it to whatever suits them. Most of the time, Eve shadows her living daughter, Savannah with a tenacity that borders on obsession. Kristoff, Eve's former lover and Savannah's father wants to rekindle old fires, but is concerned by Eve's fixation on their daughter.

The story gets rolling when the Fates enlist Eve to catch a body-hopping evil spirit. A possible bonus to mission success is Eve's elevation to angelic warrior, a status that would allow her to interact with her daughter. Eve's inability to get on with her "life," er "death" provides the primary source of character development.

As always, Armstrong can write action and the action sequences in Haunted are great. The story, however, sometimes feels more like The Magical Mystery Tour of the Afterlife, with countless pointless trips to far-flung outposts in the afterlife. Readers with an attention span will probably enjoy the depth of the world building. For me, the uneven pacing sometimes produced skimming.

Not her best, but enjoyable.

Jim Butcher's Dead Beat is without the series' usual female influence and all the more improved by Her absence. Series protagonist Harry Dresden is a great guy, but his gal pal, Murphy, typical female cop with something to prove, is annoying. So much so, that I skipped the last two books in the series. In Dead Beat, Butcher sends Murphy to Hawaii and the result is all action, no sniping.

This time Harry Desden, a human wizard for hire, has to save Chicago from necromancers. Several necromancers are looking for a book penned by a Nazi, a book that contains secrets to becoming a god.

Butcher never spares the rod on poor Harry and as with previous installments, expect Harry to lose a few liters of blood in the process. New to me, but probably not the series is Harry's roommate and half-brother Thomas, a vampire. The ever-jocular Bob the Skull is present-and-accounted-for, and Harry picks up a new love interest.
Especially amusing is the zombie Jurassic Park sequence toward the end.

Harry struggles with one complication after another, perhaps to the extreme. A side plot, regarding--sigh--Murphy-seems rather unnecessary.

But with the absence of Murphy, this is the best of the Dresden series so far.



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