The Grendel Affair: Popcorn isn’t a bad thing

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin urban fantasy book reviewsThe Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

The Grendel Affair is a sort of hybrid police procedural/governmental sort of book with a quirky main character who is easy to laugh with (and at), but also easy to sympathize with. Makenna is one of those characters that will probably seem rather cookie-cutter, and she is in many ways, but she’s endearing despite that. She has a quip for just about everything. She seems to have a knack for getting herself into ridiculous and unpredictable situations, and she’s also very pretty. It’s all the things that most authors write into their urban fantasy characters, but despite all of that, she’s a lot of fun, and most importantly, she makes mistakes, and those mistakes often propel the plot.

Supernatural Protection & Investigation is one of those super-secret agencies that is out to police all of the nasties that the humans can’t know about. Again, that is fairly cookie-cutter. I’ve read a lot (a lot) of books involving an organization of that nature before. However, Shearin does a great job at really fleshing out how the organization is run, and the power struggles that are involved in it. There is a distinct chain of command, and it is nice to see that Shearin’s characters don’t just have free reign. Instead, Makenna and her cohorts have to function within both social and organizational boundaries. This might seem like a weird thing for me to point out, but it is nice to see these small details which make The Grendel Affair feel so much more realistic.

SPI Files (Book Series) by Lisa ShearinThe supernatural creatures are both fairly typical and rather unique and entertaining at the same time. For example, how many books have you read where one of the characters is an actual dragon hidden behind a human mask (of sorts)? It’s entertaining, but aside from that, there are the all of the creatures you’d expect, like vampires and werewolves and etc. While they don’t dominate the readers time, they are there, and I was kind of let down by how typical they felt.

The plot moves forward at a rapid pace, often skipping from one chaotic incident to the next with very little time in-between. In fact, I ran into the same problem with The Grendel Affair that I often run into with my urban fantasy. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how these people pack so much activity into one day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a trend I tend to notice with a lot of the urban fantasy books that have plenty of mystery and action. However, this also means that The Grendel Affair pulls you in almost instantly and doesn’t let go until you read the last word. Shearin has a knack for really absorbing her readers in her book.

While The Grendel Affair is tons of fun, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from an urban fantasy novel. Our protagonist has a knack for finding herself in trouble. There’s alluded-to sexual tension. There’s plenty of action and a mystery that only Makenna can solve. It’s all stuff that I’ve seen before, but it’s very well done. It’s a load of fun and the fast pace is just right.

I almost hate saying that a book is popcorn, because so many people think that’s a bad thing. The truth is, it really isn’t a bad thing. Not every book I read needs to be some challenging novelty that redefines the way I look at literature. Sometimes I want to sit back, crack open a quick, fun, lighter read, and just enjoy myself. In times like that, The Grendel Affair is the perfect medicine. I look forward to seeing where Shearin takes this series next.

SPI Files — (2013) Publisher: We’re Supernatural Protection & Investigations, known as SPI. Things that go bump in the night, the monsters you thought didn’t exist? We battle them and keep you safe. But some supernatural baddies are just too big to contain, even for us… When I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them out — usually saving my skin in the process. Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel — yes, that Grendel — shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him — and the organization behind him — by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.

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SARAH CHORN, one of our regular guest reviewers, has been a compulsive reader her whole life, and early on found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a published photographer, world traveler and recent college graduate and mother. Sarah keeps a blog at Bookworm Blues.

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6 comments

  1. This sounds like great fun! I worked in local government for much too long, which means I am in that special minority of people who find jurisdictional disputes funny, so I’d probably like this.

  2. Simon Ellberger /

    The main problem I had with this book was the terrible proofreading. It was loaded with awkward typos, poor punctuation, and bad grammar, such as using “bought” for “brought” and sentences like this one: “The Russian make a slashing motion across his throat.” If you don’t mind these sorts of errors in a professionally published book (I do mind them), then The Grendel Affair is as you described it: good popcorn.

    • Ah, this is the one problem with getting review copies from publishers. Sarah almost certainly read an “Advance Review Copy.” Reviewers are asked to assume that the book has not had its final edit and even asked not to quote from the book without checking with the publisher first because the text might actually change a little. So, when we see typos or grammar errors, we assume they’re going to be fixed and don’t mention them. If the book is older, there are often multiple editions that may be published by more than one press, so it doesn’t seem fair to mention typos in one edition that may not affect all editions. We do sometimes mention particularly bad editions, however.

      In this case, Sarah would have assumed the typos would be fixed. Too bad they weren’t! Thanks for telling us, Simon!

  3. I’m seeing that more and more in books I buy. I think true copy-editors are worth their weight in platinum.

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