Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Espirit de Corpse (Reluctant Reaper #3) by Gina X. Grant

Kirsty scythed Conrad – her evil ex-boss who tried to sell her soul to increase the terms of his demonic pact – with Dante’s scythe. All the rules said this was forbidden, but no-one knew why. Until Conrad turned into a demon, escaped from prison and fled to the mortal Coil

Guess that answers that question

Of course, it’s Dante and Kirsty’s job to bring him back since they’re at fault – and quickly. But Conrad has returned to his old company and targeted his daughter and Kirsty’s best friend – Shannon. As if possessing Shannon wasn’t enough, she then gets arrested for murdering Kirsty!

Through all this Kirsty also has to deal with a moody Dante who is Not Happy with Kirsty over the whole scythe thing.

Oh this book. In fact, this series. I can see what it’s trying to do. I can see what it’s trying to achieve. It’s trying to be a very funny, fluffy, light and irreverent story with a slightly ditzy protagonist and lots of zany amusement. Kind of like Mary-Janice Davidson’s Undead series.

But it really isn’t working for me. It’s trying to force all these puns and commentary and it just doesn’t work for me. And everything about the world and story kind of revolves around setting up the next joke or gag so it all kind of doesn’t work for me.

I don’t mind the story in this book – the beginning set up was annoying and the conclusion vexed me, but the middle was pretty interesting. I followed along wondering what they were going to do next, how they were going to rectify things and if they even could, especially from the coil. I was interested and engaged but a little frustrated that they seemed to be more witnesses than participants in the story.

I do give massive points to the awesome judge who set the court room lawyers homework to learn the damn law and banning them from watching courtroom dramas. I cheered that judge. I bow down to this judge. This judge is beyond awesome.

I would really like to see Kirsty involved in a storyline that didn’t come about because of her own mistakes. The second book came from one of her unintentional blunders in the first book and this book is based on her grabbing Dante’s scythe despite knowing there would be (admittedly ill-defined) consequences. If there’s a fourth book in the series, I’d very much like it not to be another episode of “Kirsty D’Arc, scrabbling to clear up her mess. Again.”

It’s partly because of Kirsty’s inexcusable screw up in book 2 that makes it is almost hard be as critical as I might be of Dante’s arseholery towards her. He treats her appallingly, he’s sarcastic, he’s distant, he arrogantly pulls rank over her and he demeans her. It’s out of line and pretty clearly shown as such. In some ways it’s an interesting complexity – after all, Dante has every right to be angry with her after what she did – but even with his legitimate anger, his treatment is still out of line. Someone screwing up – even in a manner that is pretty inexcusable – doesn’t justify demeaning them the way Dante did.

Of course, that message may have been clearer if Kirsty didn’t spend time being jealous of Dante. I would actually have been happy if she confined her jealousy to Beatrice – because Dante calling Kirsty by Beatrice’s name is a pretty big motivation for that. But getting jealous because Shannon turns to Dante for comfort – especially when she herself didn’t acknowledge they were a couple – just cast a bad light on all of it. Her objection to Dante’s behaviour became clouded by her unreasonable jealousy and her jealousy over Beatrice merged with her being upset over Shannon. Her reasonable reactions are buried and shaded by a whole lot of unreasonable.

The fact that a lot of this book is based on Kirsty’s mistake means I’m also frustrated immensely by the amount Kirsty breaks the rules in this book. Yes, Dante’s being an arse, most definitely – but how many more mistakes will she make and how many rules will she blatantly ignore before she finally realises that this is the source of most of her problems? She just looks… not very bright. Like she’s in the coil, the human world, where she’s invisible and insubstantial. She makes a mistake and assumes people can see her. Fine. Then she does it again. Ok I imagine it’s a huge transition even if she has been on the coil before. And then again. And again. At what point does she LEARN? Conrad did the same thing – he continually forgot he was possessing Shannon’s body. I mean, not once or twice, but over and over again.

I think it’s maintained to try and extract every last drip of humour from the situation but that’s another problem. This book, this series, is trying so hard to be funny with it’s puns and silly commentary

My additional gripe with the book is another problem I had with the previous 2 books in the series, the ending seemed to happen by accident again. She does spend a lot of effort throughout the book to try and solve the problem, she takes independent effort, she has a lot of ideas, some of them extremely good. She tries to stick to them and only makes a few mistakes (kicking at Conrad rather than Scything him for some utterly bemusing reason?). And in the end? The bad guy is thwarted and she wins out of simple random chance. It works out for her because of an accident, because of events she can’t possibly have had any say in and it all comes together with massive amounts of twee with everyone but the bad guy happy and joyful, all resolved, no loose ends. Even coming home to find her aunt and Lesley sorted out – everything just RESOLVES. She could spend the whole book doing a steady stream of Sudoku because her actions throughout the book seems to have so very little bearing on the actual ending.

In terms of minorities, Lesley and Carey are referred to – they really are pretty classic examples of Lesbian Marris. They’re not bad – how could they be bad? They’re not really present – and I love how much Kirsty values them and cares for them and has come to appreciate them – but they’re not there. Kali makes a cameo appearance at the beginning and we have both Theresa Mudders (the saintly woman whjo doesn’t play a big role per se beyond being Kirsty’s lift) and the awesome judge who is, indeed, awesome. They’re not central roles, but the only real central roles ar Kirsty, Dante, Shannon and the bad guys.

There was also some excellent, if subtly made, points about how Conrad, the PR expert, had to completely change his tactics to win people over in Shannon’s body. He had to ditch the confident, logical, angry, outraged routine he would have adopted as a man and instead had to rely on sympathy and almost paternalistic instincts instead. It’s a good comment on how the different gender’s emotions, words and presentations are judged and valued.

There was also Maddy as a good statement on class – while Conrad/Shannon’s case was fast-forwarded through the courts, with an expensive lawyer having their back all the way, Maddy, a poor woman, was left with few considerations and a much less dramatic lawyer.

In all, this book – this series – comes close and could have been something pretty funny, a nice fun summer read. And it’s still far from arduous to read. It’s quick, it’s simple, it has its fun moments, briefly. But really it misses what it hoped to achieve with me and it’s kind of sad to deadpan your way through a book that’s trying so hard to be funny. The added problem with the attempts at humour is I just don’t like Kirsty. Her voice is annoying, she’s like that “funny” acquaintance you know who isn’t nearly as amusing as she thinks she is and she comes off as not being very bright or very sensible either. 

A copy of this book was received through Edelweis