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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Author:  Suzanne McLeod
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:  Ace
All publication dates are for U.S. editions. U.K. editions are generally available a year or so earlier.
      "Full Scale Demolition" in Home Improvement: Undead Edition anthology (prequel, 8/2011)
       The Sweet Scent of Blood (e-book & paperback4/2010)
       The Cold Kiss of Death (e-book & paperback4/2011)
       The Bitter Seed of Magic (e-book & paperback12/2011)
       The Shifting Price of Prey (e-book8/2012; paperback4/2014)
       The Hidden Rune of Iron (e-book8/2015)
       The Sharp Bite of Ritual (e-book—publication date TBA

     This post was revised and updated on 12/29/14 to include a review of  The Shifting Price of Prey, the fourth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the prequel short story and the first three novels. (Sorry to be so late in getting this review posted.)

               NOVEL 4:  The Shifting Price of Prey               
     As the book opens, Genevieve (Genny) Taylor is trying to decide if her repulsive gnome client has been murdering garden fairies or whether the fairies have died natural deaths. As the story moves along, the gnome turns up occasionally, and you should be sure to keep your eye on him because a good storyteller like McLeod never introduces characters who are not integral to the plot. And speaking of the plot, it is so complex and has so many twists and turns that it is nearly impossible to summarize. Let me just say that Genny has several tasks to complete, all of which are tremendously difficult and all of which gradually become intertwined. Here are the primary problems Genny must solve:

  >  The fae's continuing infertility problem: Genny thought she had solved the problem when she recovered the sapphire fertility pendant in the third novel. But she has learned that the pendant is only part of the solution. Until the problem is fully solved, a fae female must actually be wearing the pendant at the time of conception and then continue to wear it all through her pregnancy. That means that under current conditions, fae pregnancies would be occurring at a very slow rate. Here, Genny explains the situation: "It should have been the happy ending everyone wanted. Trouble was the pendant carried only half of the spell trapping the fertility and before the fertility could be released, the other half still had to be found..All the fae had to go on was a riddle:
     That which was taken, must be recovered.
     That which is lost, must be found.
     That which is sundered, must be joined."

     Currently, only one fae woman is pregnant, and she and her husband are living with Genny because Gen's well-warded apartment is considered to be a neutral, safe place. Genny feels compelled to find a cure for the fertility problem because it was her grandmother who cursed the fae with infertility in the first place. To help Genny solve the riddle, her kelpie friend, Tavish, gives her five magical tarot cards that he promises will provide clues and an eventual answer to the riddle. The only problem is that the clues are usually ambiguous, and the cards don't appear all at once. They appear whenever the magic decides they will appear. Consequently, as Gen makes her way through all of her adventures, cards pop up in strange places, each providing one more cryptic clue.

  >  The kidnapping of a visiting ambassador's wife and son: The woman, her son, and a zookeeper were taken from the zoo as they were being given a tour. The police call in Genny because magic was involved in the crime. As Gen investigates, she discovers that non-fae shapeshifterswho are extremely rare in the supernatural world of this mythologymay be involved.

  >  Genny's ongoing problems with her love life: This problem centers around the two men for whom Genny has lustful feelings: Malik al-Khan, the handsome and powerful vampire she has known since her childhood, and Finn, the sexy satyr who runs Spellcrackers. Gen and Malik have been on the outs since she blackmailed him in the previous book in order to get him to cooperate with her on a case, and Finn has been away for three months in the Fair Lands (realm of the fae), where he is taking care of his pregnant daughter. In this book, Gen spends time with both men and finds herself torn between them.  It's like the Isley Brother's old song that says, "love the one you're with"—at any given time she's lusting for whichever of the two is closest to her. Unfortunately, numerous misunderstandings, secrets, and deceptions complicate both relationships. Adding to her disastrous love life is the fact that the fertility pendant is leaking, and it is causing Genny to have erratic episodes in which she is overcome by lust. The only way to stop the episodes is for Gen to have regular sex (which she hasn't had for months). As Gen's crazy cousin, Mad Max, explains to her, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt; for you, love, it's a cracked dam leading to a flood of impromptu orgies every time you feel a tad frisky." As the story moves along, Genny shares a passionate rendezvous with each man (separately), but neither encounter turns out very well.

  >  Genny's ongoing antagonistic relationship with the psychotic vampire Bastien, the Autarch: When Genny was fourteen, her father married her off to the sadistic Bastien. Bastien treated her cruelly, even killed her best friend, and Malik eventually helped her escapeor did he? Bastien pops up throughout the story in various guises, and he tells Gen a different story about the relationship between himself, Malik, and Gen than the one she remembers. Is Bastien telling the truth, or is he just trying to turn Gen against Malik?

     All through the book, Genny never knows what to believe as her enemies lie to her and some of her allies try to protect her either by withholding information or by keeping her completely out of the loop. By the time the climactic showdown scene arrives, Genny still isn't sure that she knows the truth about the relationship between Malik and Bastien or the relationship between her and her two lovers. In a major twist at the very end of the book, even Genny's relationship with her friends and family is put into jeopardy by an ally who turns against her. That final scene sets the stage for the next novel: The Hidden Rune of Iron.  

     Although the plot is complex, McLeod tells her action-packed story clearly, with plenty of drama, suspense, and emotion. Each book in the series has added more depth to the main characters, and this one carries on that tradition. The only nitpick I have is that poor Genny is always fighting an uphill battle to hold her life together. She truly can't rely on anyone but herself because every time she thinks she has an ally, he or she (but usually he) lets her down, or misunderstands her words or actions, or fails her in some way. She never seems to catch a break. Genny's love life is fascinating to watch, as each of her lovers has secrets (good and bad) and flaws that are revealed in greater detail in each book. I'm enjoying this series and am already looking forward to the next book. 

     In the early chapters, McLeod provides a lengthy review of previous events, so if you've read the earlier books, you shouldn't have much trouble remembering past events. I don't, however, recommend that you start reading the series with this book. Even though the events related to the kidnapping are unrelated to other books, the search for the answer to the fertility riddle, Genny's love problems, and her situation with Bastien are all based on events that occurred earlier in the series. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

     To all of her friends and acquaintances, Genevieve (Genny) Taylor (aka Genevieve Nataliya Zakharinova) appears to be a sidhe, one of the noble Faethe only full-blooded sidhe in London, in fact. In reality, Genny's genetic heritage is a bit more complicated, a fact that she keeps secret from everyone and which is slowly revealed in agonizingly small snippets in The Sweet Scent of Blood

     In this world, magic is everywhere. People can even purchase spells in the marketplace. Witches are the top dogs of this supernatural world, and the vampires are their long-time enemies, as well as being major tourist attractions. These vampires are very scarylots of glamouring, blood lust, and remorseless physical and mental cruelty. 

     The series is set in London, where Genny works for, a magical service agency that cleans up spell infestations cast by various supernaturals, from brownies to pixies to trolls. Genny gets rid of spells either by cracking them or by absorbing their magic into her own body, which can have major ramifications, both good and bad.

     On McLeod's web site, she provides the following recommendation for the order in which to read the books in this series: "Each book has its own murder mystery plot which is resolved within that book, so the books can be read out of order. But the books are a series featuring the same characters, so if you read them in order you can follow how the characters and their relationships grow and change. You might also find some parts confusing. The books also have overarching plot points that build and develop over the series."

               SHORT STORY:  "Full Scale Demolition"             
     This short story appears in Home Improvement: Undead Edition and follows Genny as she deals with an infestation of pixies. The kelpie, Tavish, shows up as a supporting character. The story is set six months before the events in The Sweet Scent of Blood.

               NOVEL 1:  The Sweet Scent of Blood             
      The plot of book 1 deals with the murder of a celebrity vampire's fiance. The vampire is the prime suspect in the murder, and his father hires Genny to determine whether a spell was involved in the girl's death, which would exonerate his son. As Genny investigates the murder, several extremely powerful vampires contact her—sometimes violently, each wanting to know more about the spell for which she is searching. Eventually the spell becomes the key point in the resolution of the plot.

     Although Genny is attracted to some of the vampires (particularly to the sexy Malik al-Khan), she is also flirting with her soon-to-be boss, Finn, a satyr who seems to care deeply for her.  Although there is some simmering sensuality in a few scenes, Genny leads a non-sexual life, at least in The Sweet Scent of Blood. Other supporting characters are Detective Sergeant Hugh Munro, a troll who has looked out for Genny for many years, and Detective Inspector Helen Crane, a witch who takes an instant dislike to Genny.

     I wish that I could have liked this book more. The feisty heroine and the story idea were both great. The setting was authentic. The first-person point of view was adequately handled. The supporting characters were interesting. But...on the other hand, the plot had a lot of gaps. I actually did like the first chapters of The Sweet Scent of Blood, but then more and more supporting characters appeared—particularly in one violent scene—and the magic started swirling to the point of frustrating confusion. It was hard to remember just who everyone was and what kind of magic each could wield. Sometimes I felt that I had accidentally picked up the second book in the series rather than the first.  Critical information about important past events was provided just a bit too late in the story, although, I admit, most of the necessary facts were presented before the very end of the conflict. I'll keep reading the series, though.  Now that some of the key facts about Genny's childhood have come out, perhaps future plots will be easier to decipher. Click HERE to read chapter 1. Click HERE to read chapter 2.

               NOVEL 2:  The Cold Kiss of Death                
     In the second book, Genny has an enemy in the nasty old witch who lives in the apartment below her. Witch Wilcox despises Genny's relationships with vampires and has even set magical wards that attack Genny when she walks past the witch's door.  Ever since the media got a picture of Genny kissing a vampire (in the previous book), all the vamps in town are after her. They want to make her a blood slave because her Sidhe blood is so tasty.  When Genny gets framed for the murder of a friend, she must go on the run and rely on the three sexy men in her life for assistance and protection: the vampire (Malik), the kelpie (Tavish), and the satyr (Finn). All claim to want her, each for his own reasons and purposes. Oh, and then there is the return of a bitter enemy who was seemingly killed in the previous book. Guess what? He's baaack! Genny spends most her time searching for the real killer while dodging the police, coping with hungry vampires, and dealing with a dark and powerful sorceress. The Fae's dryad enforcers are also after Genny, and there's a good, if strange, reason for that: a theory that Genny can save the Fae from being banned from London by doing something that I really can't tell you (or I'll spoil the story). If that prohibition is lifted, they can bring in mates from the outside and keep their race from dying out, but Genny is not so sure that she wants to compromise her freedom by helping them out. 

     Wow! That's a lot of plot, and it moves along at breakneck speed, so the situations and the characters can become a bit confusing. We learn more facts about Genny's childhood, Rosa's history, and Malik's role in both. Keep in mind that none of these characters fully trust one another and that minor characters can turn out to be very important to the plot. If you sink yourself into the story and just keep reading, everything will become clear by the climactic resolution. Some aspects of the resolution fall into place almost too neatly and too quickly, but the whole thing still works. The ending is a cliffhanger, with Gen being given some time to think about how she is going to deal with her life-changing decision.

     Let me be absolutely clear on this next point: Please don't read this book first or you'll have no idea what's going on. The Sweet Scent of Blood sets up all of the exposition and explains the relationships among the relatively large cast of characters. Without that information, you'll be lost in The Cold Kiss of Death.

     I like this series even better since I've read the second book. It's not the easiest world to understand, and there are no characters who are either all good or all bad, so you've got to have your brain in gear whilst reading along.  Although Genny has many of the typical characteristics of the usual urban fantasy heroine (i.e., smart, sassy, tragic childhood, low self-esteem, developing powers), she is also an engaging personality with whom we can empathize and root for as she tries to normalize her life (as much as possible) and find her perfect life partner. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

               NOVEL 3:  The Bitter Seed of Magic                
     Genny's task in this book is to crack the fertility curse that Cliona, a powerful sidhe queen, has laid on the fae of London. Genny knows that there is one sure way to break the curse, but its effects on her would be too personal and life-changing for her to accept. She decides that she must take the offensive by gathering as many clues to the curse as possible and putting them together like a puzzle so that she can blast away the curse and get herself out of the picture. But first, she has to deal with the serial murders of faeling (half human/half fae) women by an unknown assassin. As she searches for clues about the murders, she begins to believe that they are somehow connected to the curse. Unfortunately, Genny's old nemesis, DI Helen Crane, wants Genny to stay completely away from the case, going so far as to put Genny in jail at one point. As the story advances, we learn why Helen is so antagonistic to Genny, and it's not just because Gen is getting friendly with Helen's ex-husband (Finn). In the meantime, Genny must deal with a variety of sidhe suitors, all begging her to mate with them. That group is headed by Finn Panos, her boss at Spellcrackers. Genny has lusty feelings for Finn, of course, but she also has lusty feelings for two other men: the kelpie Tavish and especially for the vampire Malik. What's a girl to do? 

     In this book, we get some welcome insight into the relationship between Genny and Malik, something that's been lacking up until now. We (and Gen) also learn some of Finn's personal secrets, and this has an immediate effect on their romance. As the story moves along, Genny discovers that everyone seems to know a lot more about her heritage and about the curse than she does, and she is constantly frustrated when she finds it difficult to make people open up and give her the information. Eventually, Genny winds up in an up-close-and-personal showdown with Helen and with a villain whom she thought was one of the good guys. By the end of the story, Genny has learned a lot more information about her family treesome of it happy, but much of it tragic. She also fears that Malik may be in trouble with her husband, the evil Autarch, and that she and Tavish may need to intervene to save him. But that's all to come in the next book(s). Just read and enjoy this one for its fast-paced plot and quirky characters. 

     This book isn't as overstuffed with plot as the previous two, so the author has room to fit in some characterization. The addition of information about the past lives of Finn, Helen, and Malik strengthens this book and enriches the series as a whole. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

1 comment:

  1. The hardcover for "The Bitter Seed of Magic" was released on 02/28/2011; the paperback/e-book is scheduled to be released 12/27/2011.

    The hardcover for "The Shifting Price of Prey" is scheduled to be released 02/26/2012.