Vicious Grace: What urban fantasy can be at its very best

M.L.N. Hanover Black Sun's Daughter 3. Vicious Graceurban fantasy book review M.L.N. Hanover Black Sun's Daughter 3. Vicious GraceVicious Grace by M.L.N. Hanover

M.L.N. Hanover’s urban fantasy series, The Black Sun’s Daughter, gets better with every new book. Vicious Grace is the third book in the series (which is intended to last for ten books). It is an exciting, well-written example of what urban fantasy can be at its very best.

Jayné Heller remains one of the realest heroines there is in all of fantasy literature; but best of all, she continues to grow and change. She faces difficult problems head on — and not just the types of problems you expect a heroine to face, the kind that require physical prowess against a known enemy, but personal issues that are far more difficult even to acknowledge, much less resolve. She loses a great deal personally in Vicious Grace, and stands to lose even more as the book ends.

Vicious Grace takes place in Chicago, mostly within the halls of Grace Memorial Hospital, which resembles Cook County Hospital, the charity hospital on the West Side of the city (though the book is careful to differentiate its fictional hospital from Grace Memorial by stating that the two are several miles apart). Grace Memorial is an odd building architecturally; it is extremely easy to get lost in its confines, much more than should be the case absent some fantastical agency at work. There is a dream study going on at Grace Memorial, and it is turning up some very strange results. Specifically, dreamers in the study are dreaming the exact same dream at the exact same time.

Kim — the ex-wife of Aubrey, Jayné’s sweetheart — is called in to look at the study results, which the senior researcher fears are going to ruin him. Kim was heard to say something about her belief in “spirits” at a Christmas party once, and never lived it down, but the researcher remembers and asks for her help. Kim calls Jayné, and she and her group — including Aubrey, Chogyi Jake, and Ex, a former Jesuit priest — head for Chicago.

Unpleasant discoveries await the group at almost every turn. There is much that is not as Jayné thought it was, from the character of her beloved Uncle Eric to the relationship between Kim and Aubrey to the very condominium in Chicago she inherited from Eric. As all of this character and historical development is going on, the evil at Grace Memorial is growing and becoming ever more dangerous. The group has to move quickly, and at considerable personal danger — the worst danger they have faced yet.

But the goings-on at Grace Memorial seem oddly beside the point relative to Jayné’s own discovery and growth. And, in fact, it’s what is going on in Jayné’s head that’s the fascinating part of this book. There are few characters in fantasy that have grown up quite so much in the course of three books, and looked so hard at things that are hard to look at. Indeed, few fantasies have Hanover’s habit of changing everything with every book in a series. Hanover continually pulls the rug out from under Jayné’s feet, and she’s dancing as fast as she can just to stay upright. Most people would crumble under this sort of pressure — pressure on all sides, emotionally, physically, psychically — but Jayné keeps going, guided by an internal moral compass that doesn’t ever seem to lead her astray. And yet, Hanover manages to keep Jayné feeling like a real person, not a superhero. It’s an impressive achievement for an urban fantasy, and makes for compelling reading.

Readers would be well advised to begin this series at the beginning, with Darker Angels, followed by Unclean Spirits. Fortunately, they are both as thoroughly enjoyable and well-written as Vicious Grace.

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

View all posts by Terry Weyna


  1. Terry, I loved this one too. This series just keeps getting better.

  2. Kelly, you know that M.L.N. Hanover is Daniel Abraham, right? So you might want to check out Abraham’s books, which are also really,really good.

  3. I do! :) I really need to try the ones he wrote under his real name; I’ve heard really good things about them from other FanLit reviewers.

  4. I hadn’t realized this was Daniel Abraham. I’ve been eyeing Dragons Path waiting for it to come out and Leviathan Wakes looks good too – I love me some good space opera.
    I’ll have to check out the Hanover series. Thanks.

  5. Leviathan Wakes is a wonderful collection. One or two of the stories are weaker than the others, but for the most part they’re very well done. They also show an incredible range — from “The Cambist and Lord Iron” to “Flat Diane” is a huge leap of imagination — and those two stories alone are worth the cost of the book.

  6. OK, that threw me a little. Leviathan Wakes is a new SciFi book coming out that he co-authored under the name James S A Corey. But I went searching to see what you were talking about and I think you meant Leviathan Wept which looks really interesting and I’d never heard of. I’ll have to track down a copy. Thanks.

  7. Oops. Yes, I definitely meant Leviathan Wept. And I had it right in front of me while I was typing, too! I guess my brain is set to “weekend.”

  8. Im glad have seen this post. I’ve read book one but was okay with it. I was a bit curious as to the happenings in sequels but didnt want to spend my time on another okay read but seeing that it gets better and better I just might!!=)

    Thx for the review!

  9. Hello, after reading this amazing post i am too happy to share my experience here with mates.


  1. Suvudu Likes: 2/5/2011 « Del Rey and Spectra - Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, Graphic Novels, and More - [...] Review: Vicious Grace by M.L.N. Hanover, read by Fantasy Literature [...]

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