Darker Angels: To heck with my inner curmudgeon

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review M.L.N. Hanover Black Sun's Daughter 2. Darker AngelsDarker Angels by M.L.N. Hanover

My inner curmudgeon nearly set Darker Angels aside at about the halfway point. “I don’t get this book!” said the curmudgeon. “The voodoo’s all wrong. Legba isn’t an evil serial killer! The good guys’ plan doesn’t quite add up, and is pretty unethical besides. And the interpersonal drama just ate the plot for lunch!”

“Sit down and shut up,” said M.L.N. Hanover. “I’m telling a story here.”

OK, so I’ve never met M.L.N. Hanover, and he didn’t literally say that, but he might as well have. Because just as I was about to give up on Darker Angels, he threw in some twists that made me realize I was looking at it all wrong.

I must have been led astray by the extremely linear plot of Unclean Spirits. I was expecting this plot to be similar in structure, and so I wasn’t asking the right questions. I shouldn’t have been asking, “What did Hanover do wrong?” I should have been asking, “What might be going on within the plot to cause all these things to happen?” I think I also forgot that Jayné, despite being a narrator whose voice I really enjoy, is not a perfectly reliable narrator. She has biases and blind spots, and she doesn’t understand everything she experiences. Jayné’s preconceived notions got in the way of solving the mystery — and so did mine.

Darker Angels is much less linear than Unclean Spirits, and it’s much better for it. The plot revolves around a voodoo spirit who manipulates its hosts into committing horrific murders. Jayné is hired by former FBI agent Karen Black, an acquaintance of her late uncle’s, to help stop this spirit from killing a young girl. We visit New Orleans and see both the destruction left over from Katrina and the tenacity of its residents. The plot is full of great twists. Hanover yanked the rug out from under my feet at one point, and maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. It’s when the pieces start to fall into place that you realize just how carefully Hanover set them up.

I really enjoyed Darker Angels and I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked on The Black Sun’s Daughter. Jayné continues to be a delight; she’s no master strategist, but she has a lot of compassion, and she has more courage than she thinks she does. And to heck with the inner curmudgeon. By the end, this had become a “set the alarm early so you can read before work” kind of book, and I finished it with a smile on my face and maybe a few tears in my eyes.

The Black Sun’s Daughter — Began in 2008. Publisher: In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can’t always play by the rules. Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn’t quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers — and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College. Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric’s heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means — magical or mundane — so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life. Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions — Aubrey, Eric’s devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities — Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she’ll have to learn the new rules fast — or break them completely…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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