Night Shift: Fun, but not original, urban fantasy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review Lilith Saintcrow Jill Kismet Night ShiftNight Shift by Lilith Saintcrow

Lilith Saintcrow is the perfect name for an author of urban fantasy.

Like most of the novels that I’ve read that are classified as urban fantasy, supernatural thriller or paranormal romance, Night Shift has its good and bad qualities. What I like about the book was its darker vibe, the emphasis on action instead of romance or comedy, the intense pacing, Jill Kismet’s noir-esque narrative voice, and Lilith Saintcrow’s piercing prose:

The arkeus took shape, rising like a fume from dry-scorched pavement, trash riffling as the wind of its coalescing touched ragged edges and putrid rotting things.

The hell-thing howled, and my other hand was full of the Glock, the sharp stink of cordite blooming as silver-coated bullets chewed through the thing’s physical shell.

On the flipside, I had three problems with the book:

1) Night Shift has a one-dimensional supporting cast.

Because of flashbacks and some interesting conflicts between Jill and her mentor/father-figure/lover Mikhail Tolstoi, her deal with a hellbreed, and her past as a prostitute including concerns about damnation, Kismet is not really a concern in the book, but her supporting cast sure leaves a lot to be desired.

2) The humor in Night Shift just doesn’t work and is punctuated by some really bad jokes.

“Get it? A Hell of a lot of damage? Arf arf,” or, “Get it, make a killing? Arf arf.” In fact, I think the novel would have been better off if the author had just done away with the jokes and attempts at humor altogether.

3) Night Shift suffers from a lack of originality.

Of course this is subjective to the reader, but for me there are only so many books I can read that star a badass female protagonist protecting her city from demons, werewolves, vampires and other creatures that go bump in the night before I start getting a little bored. The one concession I’ll make in this instance is that Jill Kismet is particularly badass — besides hellbreed-tainted strength, speed and sorcery, Jill is also proficient with guns, knives, a whip, and hand-to-hand combat, possesses a smart eye that can see below the surface of the world, and when the occasion calls for it, wields a mighty sunsword — and I enjoyed watching her in action.

CONCLUSION: Because of bad jokes, a weak supporting cast, and failing to bring anything new to the table, I thought Lilith Saintcrow’s Night Shift was a fairly average urban fantasy novel, especially compared to such authors as Mike Carey or T.A. Pratt. But then again, I’ve also read much worse and despite its deficiencies, Night Shift is fun, action-packed, and overall, a solid start to the JILL KISMET series.


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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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