Series: SATURN'S DAUGHTER
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence--4; Sensuality--2; Humor--2
Publisher and Titles: Pocket
Boyfriend from Hell (9/2012)
Damn Him to Hell (6/2013)
This post was revised and updated on 7/15/13 to include a review of the second novel, Damn Him to Hell. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of book 1:
BOOK 2: Damn Him to Hell
In the opening scene, the Acme chemical plant releases a toxic green gas with sparkly pink particles on the Zone, causing many of the older residents—many of them homeless—to become temporarily combative and then fall unconscious. Tina, Andre, and their allies scoop up as many of the comatose victims as they can and transport them into Andre's warehouse, but they can't get them all. Almost immediately, Acme sends out its own people to grab the victims off the street and sequester them inside the plant away from the public eye. Unfortunately, they take Bill (Andre's bartender) and Sarah, who is also one of Saturn's Daughters and who turns into a chimpanzee when she is under stress. Tina realizes that the Acme scientists will gleefully (and torturously) experiment on Sarah and is determined to free her.
The story follows Tina as she and her allies try to rescue their friends from the Acme plant and figure out exactly what's going on. In the meantime, Acme keeps sending various thugs (including a helicopter full of special ops soldiers with automatic weapons) to kidnap the victims being cared for in Andre's warehouse, all of whom remain in their comas.
In a series of secondary story lines, Tina learns much more information about Andre's family and his past history, which helps her to understand why he disappears every once in awhile. They share a few passionate kisses, but that's as far as their romance goes in this book.
Then there's the Saturn's Daughter story one: Tina is able to find one more "daughter" on the Internet, and they begin to share information. She also gets some more cryptic messages from Themis that provide minimal guidance in using her powers. As she interprets Themis' hints, Tina discovers that if she uses her visualization powers for personal gain, she will be punished. When she looks at poor Sarah, who apparently attained her chimp characteristics as punishment for her immoral power use, Tina is determined to use her powers only against well-defined evildoers (and she finds plenty of those in this book). By the end of the story, the Acme conflict is mostly resolved, and Tina embarks on an all-new legal career.
Unfortunately, Tina's first-person voice continues to be awkward and clichéd, and there is way too much "telling" and not nearly enough "showing." Tina constantly blathers on about how she feels and how others behave, but there is not enough dialogue and not enough detailed behavioral description to give her "telling" any realism or depth. The chapters consist mostly of paragraph after paragraph of Tina's thoughts as she gives us her view of what's happening and then does a lot of "maybe I should do this" and "maybe he/she will do that" type of thinking. It's an annoyingly repetitive technique that weakens the plot. Characterization is also a problem. The story has lots of characters, but they are so one-dimensional that it is sometimes hard to remember who's who. Even Paddy and Julius (Dane's father and Andre's father), both of whom have key roles, are poorly developed. Leo, the possible new love interest, gets a brief physical description, but not much else.
The Acme plot moves along at a compelling pace, especially in the second half when the action really gets going. I'll keep reading the series in the hope that Tina's voice will become more authentic, and that the personalities of the continuing characters will be developed to a much greater degree. I do not recommend this book as a read-alone because of the many unexplained references to the series mythology and to events that occurred in book 1. Click HERE to read a brief excerpt in which Tina warns her neighbors of Acme's gas attack.
BOOK 1: Boyfriend from Hell
The magical Zone mythology combined with the murder investigation would have been enough to carry this book, but the author has loaded it up with a few more story lines and mini-mythologies. The first one involves the fact that after Max's death (which Tina apparently caused by cursing him), her mousy, stringy hair turns fashion-model lovely overnight. Then she begins to get messages from a mysterious person named "Themis," saying things like this: "Your Saturn transit is almost complete and the asteroids are in position. Conga-rats, newest daughter. Use your talent more wisely next time." (p. 56). So now we have an additional mythology added to the Zone mythology. The Saturn's-daughter mythology, though, is just hinted at—not fully explained. It has something to do with the fact that Tina can make things happen just by visualizing them. It would probably have been better to have tied Tina's magical gift to the eccentricities of the Zone rather than impose the unwieldy Saturn mythology on the series, but alas, that is not the case. Another story line involves a magical stray cat (Milo) that Tina finds in an alley. We watch the cat grow in size and fight like a tiger, but the mythology behind that reality shift is never explained. Then, we have Andre, who occasionally takes on a Hulk-like appearance and sometimes disappears for days at a time. No explanation for that one either—it's just mentioned in passing.
Just so the reader doesn't get too confused with all of the story lines, Tina regularly brings us up to date by using the rhetorical sum-up gimmick. Here's an example: "I had goons gunning for me, a van load of potentially explosive material for which a man had died, a boyfriend in hell, and a life that was falling apart. I needed someone to talk with." (p. 262) A "summation" literary device can work once in a story, but if the main character needs to provide a series of "the-story-so-far" briefings for the reader, that is usually an indication that the author doesn't have the plot fully under control.
The cover art is misleading in that this is not an edgy, dark, or sexy story. It's a plain vanilla urban fantasy with an improbable premise, an overloaded mythology, and barely a hint of sensuality. Click HERE to read a brief excerpt—the scene in which Max gets sent to hell.