Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review of Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding (Dreg City #1)

Evangeline Stone wakes up in the morgue naked on a table with no idea of she got there.  If that were all that were wrong it would be terrifying, but Evangeline wakes up in the body of Chalice (could Meding have picked a worse name?) - a woman who recently committed suicide. What she does not know is that now that she has opened her eyes, the clock has started to tick and she has three hours to discover who killed her and why.

Her first barrier happens when she grabs a phone to contact Wyatt, her handler in the secret police organization that she belongs to and realises that she cannot remember his phone number.  In her former life, Evi was a hunter and her job was to issue warrants and police the dreg society in the society.  Dregs are essentially the supernatural elements of the city and include but are not limited to, fae, vampires full and half bloods, fae, elves, trolls, gremlins etc,.  Evi and her team keeps the humans safe from the supernatural element that they share the world with.  Evi manages to make her way to Chalice's home where she meets Alex - Chalice's best friend. Though this is her first meeting she cannot help but feel some of Chalice's residual emotions towards Alex.

When Evi does finally meet up with Wyatt, she learns that he gave up his free will to a powerful Elf in order to bring her back from the dead, firm in the belief that she has knowledge about an alliance which would shift the balance of power horribly. No matter how hard Evi tries, she cannot remember how she died.  Wyatt and Evi's investigtion is hampered by the fact that the triads believe that Wyatt has gone rogue and that Evi is directly responsible for the death of their team.  There are no friendly faces anywhere the pair turns.

Evi must also confront her feelings towards Wyatt.  Her new body desires him but at the same time she does not want to lead Wyatt on because he clearly loves her.  When she does finally learn that her death involved a brutal rape, she tries to push past it and make love to Wyatt but discovers that some scars just don't heal that easily.  I really liked this scene because too often this kind of brutality is swept aside.  I like that Wyatt stopped and did not blame Evi for the PTSD she was experiencing.

Though we had an extremely large supernatural world, I cannot say the same for Meding's human cast. 
Ash is  quiet, stoic, so composed next to my constant fidgeting.  The Korean American yin to my Barbie-girl yang.  I' grateful for her centeredness; it means I don't have to drive. (page 77)
The only other thing that we learn about Ash is that she does martial arts and then her character is killed off to establish the fact that the Triads believe that she is a traitor.  Ash doesn't even rise to the level of a side kick.  Her sole reason for existence is to die to further the plot.  This kind of thing is common but never ever acceptable.  Meding took time to develop specific cultures for her supernatural characters but somehow could not manage to give us any reasonable representation of any marginalized person. There were no GLBT characters, though this novel was clearly in an urban setting and beyond Evi's PTSD, no disabled characters. I am not going to give her credit for having a female protagonist because that is the norm in urban fantasy. 

There were times when I was really drawn in by Three Days to Dead, and others where the pile of dishes waiting in the sink had far more appeal than reading another word.  If I had one complaint about this book, I would say that it had a lack of good consistency.  The plot seemed to stall at several points, forcing me to push forward.  It was particularly troubling in the last forty pages where the tension should have been thick, but the story just seemed to dribble along. Part of the problem is that well before the end of the book -- before I had even seen him on the page -- I knew who the antagonist was, which left me thinking, just get to the big battle scene already. I wasn't particularly thrilled by the big Perry Mason like confession that the antagonist gave at the end. 

The best thing that I can say about Three Days to Dead is that I didn't hate it, but I didn't really like it either. The world building was great and imaginative but the characters themselves felt hollow or without reason.  Why oh why, would Alex risk death for  woman he does not know repeatedly? Evi was prone to Kellie Independence which meant that she was physically violent a lot and in once scene even had to be reminded by Wyatt that it isn't a good idea to beat on your allies.  For a book that supposedly took place over three days, it felt like it went on for three months, causing me to question if Evi and Wyatt were really on a time crunch.  I know that there are more books in this series but for the life of me, I don't see anything that would push this story forward. However,  I am inclined to keep reading to see if Meding can invest her characters with a greater sense of reality without losing the interesting world that she created.