Marjoire Liu’s Dirk & Steele series is one of those that frustrates me no end.
The meta-plot through the books is fascinating. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that is implied and I desperately want to know more. There’s a large cast of characters I want to know more about, their powers, their motivations and big ominous looming in the back ground I am beyond eager to investigate and explore.
There’s also a vast diverse world here. There are psychics of all stripes and shapeshifters and gargoyles and mer people. There are witches and magic and powers beyond our ken. And I want to ken, I really do. I want to see these beings, I want to understand them, I want to see their culture, their powers, their origins.
And, unlike the vast majority of urban fantasy, it’s set around the world. In Russia and China and Taiwan, we see a more global perspective rather than the usual lock in on the US.
But while it has all this – it’s hard to see it. Because front and centre of every book is a love story. Woman meets man. Their woo-woo combines. They now love each other forever more. Insert sex scene, bish, bash, bosh, job done. It’s not even the love story in the way that annoys – it’s the fact it’s the same love story over and over in the way that vexes so.
To me it feels like I’m on a tour bus. It’s a wonderful tour bus and the scenery outside is amazing that I could drool over for hours. And the tour guide is fascinating, they’re telling me incredible things that interest me and I want to take notes and revel in it all.
But sat next to me on this tour bus is Mabel. Mabel has a lot of cats and wants to tell me about them, so I can’t hear the tour guide. She has pictures of these cats and keeps showing them to me so I can’t look out the window. I’m trying to be polite but if Mabel doesn’t shut up I’m tempted to get off the bus because she’s ruining the journey for me.
In these series the romantic plot is Mabel to me. There’s a lot of wonderful things there, but Mabel is getting in the way and frustrating me – and if Mabel doesn’t shut up and actual plot/world building doesn’t come forward I’m going to get off this damn bus.