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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mark Del Franco: CONNOR GREY

Author: Mark Del Franco          
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V3-4; S1-3; H3

Publisher and Titles: Ace    
      Unshapely Things (2007)
     Unquiet Dreams (2008)
     Unfallen Dead (2009)
     Unperfect Souls (2010)
     Uncertain Allies (2011) 

     Undone Deeds (2012) (FINAL BOOKI think)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 3/15/12 to include a review of the sixthand probably finalbook in the series: Undone Deeds. That review comes first, followed by a summary of the world-building and a review of the  fifth book—Uncertain Allies:   

   BOOK 6: Undone Deeds          
     In the aftermath of the explosive ending to the previous book, Connor is forced to go into hiding in the Tangle, where he continues his friendships with Eorla and Ceridwen as they await Maeve's next actions against them. Here, Connor describes life in the Tangle, which is the roughest part of the Weird: "Etiquette dictated that entering the Tangle meant you were not visible. Wanted criminals walked its streets and byways, and no one said a word. Law enforcement feared the place and left it alone. That I was safer among the most dangerous people in the city than I was in my apartment up the street said a lot about my life." (p. 104)

     And here, he summarizes the large and small problems in his life at this point: "I was being hunted by angry elves and crazy fairies. A Dead fairy queen wanted my help, and a live one wanted me dead. My girlfriend could read the future, and it didn't look good, and my mother thought I should go bowling with my uncommunicative dad and alcoholic brother." (p. 109)

     The plot follows Connor as he swings back and forth across the city from ally to ally, always keeping himself just barely out of the custody of the Guild, the Consortium, and the Murdock brothers. Connor's friend, Leo, is the sole member of the Murdock family who is still civil to Connor; the rest blame him for their father's death and their mother's long-ago infidelity. Leo's two brothers go so far as to attack Connor, both physically and magically. Ryan macGoren, the acting Guildmaster, is publicly blaming Connor for the destruction of the Guild House, so as Connor's friends and allies shrink in number and begin keeping secrets from him, the only one he can truly count on is Meryl, and he is sometimes unsure about her. The story moves slowly in the beginning as Connor tries to help Leo investigate the murders of a handful of undercover agents whose bodies are turning up around Boston. There are many rehashes of previous eventskind of a review of the high points and biggest mysteries of the series so far. We do, however, receive some new information. Most importantly, Connor learns some crucial facts about his own family heritage and about his old enemy, Vize. 

     Eventually, Connor's personal troubles are pushed into the background as Maeve comes to town with her troops, and the action heats up into an apocalyptic battle. Unfortunately, the story then stumbles into a swampy morass of misty mythology that takes us out of the violent fairy battle and sets us smack dab in the middle of an allegorical narrative about fate and creation, time and change. This is not a series that ends neatly or cleanly. Instead, we must make do with the central metaphorical image of the Wheel of the World as it turns and turns. The following quotation will give you the general idea: "Change is change. It is not Light. It is not dark. It is Grey." (p. 312)

     In this world, the fairies live alongside mortals. There are two main fairy groups: the Celtic fairies and the Teutonic elves. In Boston, the Seelie Court, which rules the Celtic fairies, is headquartered in the Boston Guildhouse. The governing body of the elven people is the Teutonic Consortium. The third law enforcement group in Boston is the Boston force, who serve the human population and try to stay of of supernatural politics.

     Connor is a Druid whose powers were almost totally destroyed in an incident with an evil elf, a nuclear power plant, and a ring of power. Don’t ask! Vize, the elf in question, figures into many of the ongoing plots and subplots. Now that Connor is relatively powerless, he lives a solitary life in the Weird (the ghetto of the supernatural section of Boston) and does police consultant work to earn a living. His few friends include Joe, a flit (small fairy-like creature); Briallen ab Gwyll, a powerful Druid; Leo Murdock, Connor’s human Boston Police Department partner; and Meryl Dian, an archivist working for the Guild and, eventually, Connor's girlfriend. Stories include human characters and many different types of supernaturals, mostly fairies and elves. Plots revolve around paranormal politics, so the reader must keep track of a large and complex cast of characters connected to a variety of social and political structures of the supernatural world.    

   BOOK 5: Uncertain Allies   
      In this book, most of the major characters from past books become involved in an elaborate series of deals and double crosses as each one continues to vie for power in the fairy world. Connor, as always, tries to keep out of trouble, and again, as always, fails in his efforts. As the story begins, the body of a dwarf is found, drained of its essence. Connor promises Eorla, Queen of the outsider fey, that he will try to get to the bottom of this case because he believes that it is connected with the disappearances of other dwarfs in the Weird and the Tangle (the lawless über-supernatural area of Boston). All of these disappearances were accompanied by a bright blue flash of light. As Connor and his buddy, Murdock, chase down the blue flash, other players enter the game: Vize, Connor's long-time enemy; Donor, the wily Elven King, who may be working with Vize; Ceridwen, the Danann underQueen who was double-crossed and murdered by Maeve, the Seelie queen; and Ryan macGoren, the arrogant and incompetent acting Guildmaster. Connor also worries about his girlfriend, Meryl, who is still in a coma following the battle that ended the previous book. Connor gamely keeps searching for answers as he continues to fight the blackness in his brain that has been growing more and more powerful and dangerous since a recent run-in with Vize. Eventually, Connor's search focuses on a powerful ward stone, but his investigation is complicated by the fact that other powerful supernaturals also want the stone for themselves. As usual, a climactic battle ends the book, and once again Connor finds himself on the wrong side of the law.

     With its labyrinthine plots and elaborate cast of nefarious characters, this series should be read from the very beginning: the first book—Unshapely Things—that introduces Connor and sets up the major characters and their places in the world of fairy. A year has passed since I read the last book, and when I started reading Uncertain Allies, I had trouble remembering just who was loyal to what fairy cause. One of the problems I have with Connor is that absolutely nothing goes right for him—not ever. He continually makes wrong decisions, and he and his friends—especially his friends—reap the painful and sometimes deadly results. I don't think that there is a current UF hero who has as much guilt as Connor Grey. Having said that, however, I do recommend the series if you like complexity, adventure, and lots of angst in your UF reading.

     Click HERE to go to a page on Del Franco's web site with links to full-text first chapters of each book in the series. Del Franco also writes another UF series about a Druid: LAURA BLACKSTONE.   

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