24 February 2010
The Better Part of Darkness Charlie Madigan #1
Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?
Set in an alternative Atlanta, Charlie is an ITF agent, who after dying from a beating was brought back to life, but not without some changes. When one day she and her partner Hank are called to her daughter's school to investigate a death, they discover that the girl is no dead, but drugged with something called "ash". They don't know much about it, but they do know that it induces the person into some kind of coma, and then, after a few days, the victim dies. The girl ends up being a friend of her daughter, and Charlie promises herself and her daughter Emma that she's going to discover what happened and find out a cure.
Charlie and Hank start investigating, and the first stop they make is to some informants they know. Charlie decides to go on her own, and after threatening the weasel, he told her were she can find out more about "ash", but before they finished speaking, three djinn, who also are some of the dealers of "ash", appear and they all start fighting. At the end, the informant is dead, as well as the djinn, but more important is that Charlie killed them and started healing herself without knowing how.
The djinn seek retribution for the deaths, which can be paid in money or blood, but Charlie can't pay, so they start looking for her, ransacking her house and stalking her loved ones, but she can't stop them, because if she shoes herself they would kill her. After getting her off the investigation, she starts doing it on her own, and after being spotted by a djinn, kidnapping him with the help of Hank and bringing him to the leader of the djinn, there she discovers that they are the dealers of "ash" and that they also have the key ingredient to make it, so she makes a deal with the leader, that they both know she can't pay, to try to buy more time.
After that, the stakes are raised, and the action begins.
One of the better things of this book are the characters. You get into Charlie's story right from the start, and as the story progresses, you get to know more about her. Then there's Hank, her siren partner; he has a special relationship with Charlie, he tries to help her, but most of the time she thinks she can handle all by herself. There were some hints of a possible romance, but after meeting Will, Charlie's ex-husband and Zara, the siren Hank likes, everything gets a little confusing. Will betrayed Charlie in one of the worst ways, and even if they still love each other, she can't forgive him. Then there's Bryn, Charlie's sister and magic user. They could have been closer, but Charlie keeps trying to protect her and herself by not talking to her and that drives a wedge between them. The most important relantionship Charlie has is with her daughter Emma. You can see how close they are just reading the first scene in which Emma appears. For Charlie, Emma is everything, and that is one of the best point of this book. It's something that I've never read before in Urban Fantasy and it works perfectly with the story. At some point, there were too many characters and I just kept wishing they'll disappear. The worldbuilding was great, with the earth as the "promised land" of the beings of the two other planes.
This is a powerful story, with parts that were unique in the genre, like Charlie's strong bond with Emma, but that sometimes went a little overboard. There were too many characters and there were also too many things happening at once and that hurt the book.
"I know you're Mister Invincible and everything but could you try to take things seriously once in a while?" I eyed him with a glare of disbelief. " You're so annoying. Don't even talk to me. You almost hit me with that friggin' vial. You have no idea how lucky you are right now."
Blue eyes glittered back at me. He tried to put on a serious face. What the hell was so damn funny? I turned to study Len, and didn't see anything amusing about his unconscious form. I whirled back to Hank. "What the hell was in that potion?"
"It was an atraction spell. To lure jinn female." He rubbed his chin, studying Len. "Don't think you're supposed to use the entire bottle though."