Friday, April 13, 2012

Review of Tainted by Julie Kenner Book 1 of The Blood Lily Chronicles

Lily Carlyle has had a very hard life.  Her mother died when she was only 14 years old, leaving her with a little sister to take care of and a drunken stepfather who quickly became to lost in his grief to be of any real help.  Lily made a promise to her little sister Rose that she would always keep her safe and if this meant lying, cheating and stealing to pay the bills, then so be it.  When Rose is raped and her attacker is released on a legal technicality, he begins stalking her.  Lily remembers her promise to protect her sister, and if that means committing murder to ensure that Rose is safe, then she is more than willing to do it.

What Lily does not count on, is that her act of vengeance will lead to her death. Lily dies knowing that with all of her past actions, that there is only one final destination for her - hell.  Lily is however offered a chance of redemption, when she is placed into the body of Alice Purdue and told that she is the girl who is prophesied to ensure that the demons amassing at the ninth gate are never able to escape.  She says yes to this challenge, because the alternative is an eternity of damnation, and so with the help of  Clarence and her fighting coach, an incubus named Zane, Lilly/Alice sets out to save the world and in the process keep her promise to her little sister.

As with all plans, things don't run smooth for Lily.  Each time she kills a demon, she takes on their essence and this means that she inherits all of the dark passions, crimes and urges.  Lily is terrified that she is becoming that which she is seeking to eradicate.

With Armageddon looming, Lily also find herself deeply attracted to a demon named Deacon.  It appears that Deacon and Alice had some sort of arrangement and he quickly surmises that though Lily now looks like Alice, something is very wrong.  There is an extremely strong attraction between the two of them, which Lily has great difficulty reconciling.  How is it possible that the chosen one - a demon killer, can be attracted to a demon?  Is it possible that things are not as black and white as she has been told?  Do demons possess the ability to be an agent of good?

Tainted is not very different from many of the demon stories out there; however, it is extremely well written.  It is impossible not to be drawn to Lily as she attempts to negotiate this world of incubi, vampire, and demons.  At first, she is extremely naive and strongly believes in the good bad binary and blames any questions on her libido, but as the story advances, and she becomes more aware of the eternal game that she is now playing, Lily learns to accept the possibility of grey.  Essentially, what Lilly must ask herself is, do the ends justify means.  Sure, this is an age old question, but it is still a question we all must ask ourselves at some point. 

This story takes place and Boston and though Boston is a very multi cultural city, there are no GLBT characters, POC or disabled characters.  There are plenty of urban fantasy books with this sort of erasure, but that does not make it any less disappointing.  Kenner did spend a lot of time delving into class, which actually is rare in urban fantasy.  Lilly is clearly intelligent and when she was younger, she had dreamed of becoming a doctor.  Due to the death of Lily's mother and her step-fathers alcoholism, she is forced to drop out of school, to earn money to keep the family afloat.  She does exactly what she has to do, and this makes a great point about the ways in which ones class location limits opportunities.  Lily is absolutely jaded and is highly aware of exactly how unfair life really is.

There is a lot of sexual tension in this book between Lily and Deacon, as well as between Lily and Zane.  At times it become ridiculous because of course Lily loses all track of herself, because she is so caught up in lust.  We are to believe that the otherwordly forces are what causes her to have difficulty with rational thought but it's ridiculous. I would much rather have a protagonist simply own her sexual desires.   

Tainted, while not original is absolutely captivating.  Throughout the novel, one is never really sure if anyone is actually good, or if the much more challenging grey area is the best that one can expect.  Tainted is a very swiftly moving story but it never ever feels rushed.  There are subtle clues a long the way as to the ending and Kenner brilliantly weaves them altogether, to leave the reader asking why  the answers were not evident from the get go.  This is an absolute page turner and that is the best that one can hope for from a new series.  We have learned about the world, the protagonist and her motivations and a great mission for the Lily to undertake in following books.