Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Demon Mistress (Otherworld Series #6) by Yasmine Galenorn

 Menolly steps back up as protagonist in this book as the sisters come across an old potential crime while burrowing through the storerooms of the Wayfarer. Tracking down a missing elf from years ago isn’t easy, but is complicated by a missing vampire, a posse of undead, a friendly neighbourhood necromancer and his wandering ghouls, a demonic frat house who get exactly what they deserve and a whole new force of demons who fight on the astral plane

It’s a lot to juggle and, of course, behind it all is the politics from Otherworld and the eternal threat of Shadow Wing and his demons.

Menolly also has relationships to balance – Nerissa is finding her time taxed with the puma council demanding she assume a political role; while Vanzir and Rozuriel both pursue Menolly, their demonic natures fitting powerfully well with Menolly’s vampirism.

One of the main problems I’ve had with this series in the past is that it brings in a lot of extraneous issues, lots of side plots and lots of distractions that bogs down a very epic story – which is further exacerbated by the over-description, unnecessary recapping and constant talking everything through.

So I was really happy that this book managed to avoid a lot of that. I think part of it is that the world is so huge now there’s a limit to how much recapping and reiteration you can actually do. Similarly most of the storylines and elements were pretty much relevant to the plot without too much in the way of distraction. The writing was more concise, there was no need to reiterate the battle order every time they fought, less random anecdotes from Iris, less putting the end of the world on hold so they could have a meal – it was tighter. There was still some side references that made things longer than they needed to be, but they were relevant side references to things like the fae queens or Iris’s personal life. The story was much more contained and moved at a much brisker pace with a far greater sense of both the urgency and the epic consequences they face.

I wasn’t especially happy with how the story started, however. I can understand going after the astral demons since Delilah was targeted and people were dying. It was a nice reminder that, while Shadow Wing must be the priority, he’s not the only threat out there and they can’t focus on him when there are bodies on the ground. I can also understand Chase asking for information on the missing vampire from Menolly since she’s his vampire contact and it’s only a matter of asking questions. What I don’t understand is, with the ominous threat of Shadow Wing looming over them, they decided that it’d be great to search for an elf who may or may not have gone missing several years ago. Where’s the triage? Where’s the sense of priorities? I’m actually a little put out that it did all end up being related to Shadow Wing. Maybe it’s supposed to be a sense of how wide spread his power and influence is, but I felt it was a little “hey we got another spirit seal!” “How?” “Uh… we kind of stumbled over it, to be honest.”  The story itself was great – fun, well written, well paced – but the beginning and end were shaky.

I also think the friendly neighbourhood necromancer is really unnecessary in a cast that already has a rather large cast of characters. This is a wonderfully huge world with a massive, multi-layers epic storyline with so many factors and sides and forces that it always stands on the edge of becoming bloated.

Of course, it’s that world and epic story that keeps me coming back to this series. The fae, the devas, the different realms of fae, the demons and their factions, humans, shapeshifters, vampires – I don’t think there are many worlds I’ve come across that are as rich as this series. And it’s not just the sheer number of supernaturals that are present, it’s how all these forces are relevant to the plot line. All of them have an influence and all of them have a stake – they’re not just mentioned in passing, they are integral parts of the story

The sisters continue to be excellent, fun characters. They’re powerful, but with flaws. They are capable in their way but they also have dire weaknesses. They are, in many ways, woefully unprepared and unsuited for the heavy burden that has been placed on them but, despite minor doubts, difficult pasts and challenges, they don’t spend their time wallowing in fear and angst – though they certainly feel it – they get up and get on with it, they step up, take the risk, keep fighting even when they’re hurt and even when the odds aren’t in their favour. And they’re very human, they enjoy life and don’t apologise for it – they expect fun and down time and love. They have an extremely powerful bond as sisters and that never weakens or frays – they’re always together and stronger for it.

And yes, them tearing up the frat house full of rapists and kidnappers was deeply fun to read.

I am glad that we’re beginning to see some exploration of Menolly’s bisexuality, rather than it being a background reference as we’ve seen time and again before. Menolly’s relationship with Nerissa is real, emotional and they seem to share genuine affection – I have some hope for this – cautious hope. Similarly we have Sassy forming a relationship with Erin that, again, looks to have the foundations of something meaningful. We also have reference to the often-absent-unless-useful Tim and Jason getting married – it doesn’t make them less tools, but it adds together to give me hope.

If it weren’t for the past record of the books I’d take these as the heartwarming inclusion they are and be happy, but I have a niggling little doubt. Because Erin is being tutored in the ways of vampiredom, Menolly demands – and Sassy agrees – that their relationship remain platonic for at least a year – it is put on hold. And after a wonderful encounter in the beginning of the book, we learn that Nerissa is running as a councillor and will be too busy to concentrate on their relationship for a time and they accept a semi-hiatus or minimal contact (the relationship on semi-hold, again). For the rest of the book Menolly looks to two other love interests – Vanzir and Rozuriel, both male and demons. While there’s still an intention of having Nerissa as the primary love interest and these 2 as dalliances, I don’t see that working out since Vanzir and Rozuriel are already established, active and present characters in the series, deeply involved in the plot while Nerissa is a walk on bit part who has no indication of being more. They also keep saying things like how Menolly, as a vampire, needs someone who understands her – a demon (Nerissa is a werepuma). To solidify my concern, the book is called “Demon Mistress.

I’d love to see a same-sex relationship presented as the enduring true love for one of the three protagonists – like Chase and Delilah or Camille and Smokey, Morio and Trillian. I’m hopeful this is going to happen – but I’m also wary about it

I could also really do without the constant appropriation of the closet. Enough of the “outing” vampires already.

While this book certainly had its issues with shaky motivations and odd choices on the characters’ part and I think it ended in a tad too neat a fashion, it was a general uptick for me on the series. I wasn’t left frustrated or wallowing in irrelevancies and the plot remained present, relevant and fun and exciting to follow. I’m hoping this is going to be a continuing trend for the next few books.