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Monday, December 3, 2012

Karen Marie Moning: THE DANI O'MALLEY TRILOGY

Author:  Karen Marie Moning   
Series:  THE DANI O'MALLEY TRILOGY 
Plot:  UF   
Ratings:  V4; S3; H3
Publisher and Titles:  Delacorte Press
          Iced (11/2012)
          Burned (TBA)
          Played (TBA)

          WORLD-BUILDING          
     This series is set in the world of Moning's FEVER SERIES in the year 1AWC (After the Wall Crash)the first year after the Wall between Faerie and mortal earth came down. The Fae, in all their vicious glory, are swarming into Dublin, and Dani (Mega) O'Malley sees herself as the superhero who will save the humans of her city in a Batman kind of way. Here's Dani's analysis of the situation: "Imagine a world that doesn't know its own rules. No cell phones. No Internet. No stock market. no money. No legal system. A third of the world's population wiped out in a single night and the count rising by millions every day. The human race is an endangered species...All of the Fae are free: the deadly Dark Court and the imperious Light Court, who are every bit as deadly, just prettier....We're being hunted by voracious monsters that are nearly impossible to kill. Their favorite food? People....The Fae have no king, no queen, no one in charge. Two psychotic, immortal Unseelie princes battle for dominion over both races. Humans have no government...It's complete chaos." (Iced, p. 5) I recommend that you read the FEVER books before beginning this series because that mythology is the foundation of this new series, and it is very complex. (Click HERE to read my review of the FEVER SERIES, which includes an overview of the world-building.)

     Now ordinarily, this would be a fine, exciting premise, but in this case, Dani is 14 years old, a fact that we are reminded of constantly throughout the book. Picture Dani as behaving like a typical middle-school-age child, with all of the slang use, pop cultural references, raging hormones, and sexual naiveté that implies. Now add in a bunch of adult (sometimes immortal), powerful men who view her in a sexual manner, and the situation gets a bit icky. The book is full of double entendre scenes in which either Dani (unknowingly) or the men (slyly) make verbal references that mean something innocent to Dani and something sexual to the males, and these scenes can be uncomfortable for the reader. Click HERE to read Moning's discussion of the DANI O'MALLEY TRILOGY, in which she says that it "straddles the line between YA and adult uneasily." 

     To review, here's some background on Dani, who was a character in  the FEVER SERIES: Dani calls herself "human" but appears to be more than that. She has the ability to move very quickly from place to place by "freeze-framing." Here is Dani's description of that process: "I start at point A, lock down a mental snapshot of everything around me, hit the gas, and in a blink I'm at point B. It's only got a couple of downsides. One, I'm constantly bruised from running into things at top speed because some of the things I lock down on my mental grid aren't stationary, like people and animals and Fae. Two, freeze-framing requires a ton of food for fuel....You know those movies where folks wear rounds of ammo on their body? I wear protein bars and Snickers." (Iced, p. 15) Dani is extremely smart, able to pull together clues and analyze situations with great accuracy, and this is one of the reasons Ryodan needs her. Dani loves Dublin and she loves her life: "I love moving the way I do. I can't imagine life any other way. Whenever something is bugging me, all I need to do is zoom around the city, spy on all the slo-mo Joes trudging through, and I instantly feel a million times better. I've got the coolest gig in the world. I'm a superhero." (Iced, p. 13)

     When Dani was a small child, her mother always kept her in a cage to prevent her from freeze-framing away, and this is where Dani got her intense fear of being locked up. To keep Dani occupied during her cage time, Mom kept the TV on and gave Dani a remote, and this is the key to the frequent references Dani makes to old TV shows and movies (which she watched over and over again on cable). When Dani's mother died, Rowena (the former head of the sidhe-seers), moved her into the abbey, where she was controlled just as severely as she had been at home. Rowena used Dani almost like a tool to commit horrendous crimes against the people she wanted to punish, and one of those unfortunate victims was MacKayla (Mac) Lane's sister, Alina. (Mac is the heroine of the FEVER SERIES.) Rowena believed that Dani has "a neurological condition synesthesia..., with all kinds of cross regions of my brain talking to each other....She said my Id and Ego are best buds, they don't just live on the same floor, they share a bed." (p. 95)

     The situation between Dani and Mac is still hostile. Dani stays out of Mac's way because she is sure that Mac plans to kill her because recently (in Shadowfever), Mac discovered that Dani killed Alinathe event that was the reason Mac came to Dublin in the first place, way back in book 1 of FEVER (Darkfever).  Both Mac and her lover, Jericho Barrens, are seen only on the far sidelines of Iced, but that will change in book 2.

          BOOK 1:  Iced          
    The FEVER SERIES ended with the cataclysmic fall of the Wall on Halloween, and Iced begins in May of the following year. Dani has been approached by Ryodan (one of Barrens' best friends and an important character in  FEVER) to do a job for him, but she has refused. Dani hates the fact that Ryodan owns Chester's, a sex club where humans come to be preyed on by the Fae, and she does her best to kill as many Fae as she can near the club. It's obvious to everyone but Dani that Ryodan has plans for Dani and that those plans don't involve getting her permission or consent. Ryodan, who was cruel but self-controlled in the FEVER books, now comes across as a vicious and arrogant sociopath. He (and others) treat Dani like chattel to be possessed, punished, and locked away until needed. In addition, Ryodan loses control to the point that he hits Dani and abuses her physically in several scenes, once even chaining her up in an underground dungeonone of Dani's scariest nightmares come true.

     Another of the supernatural men obsessed with Dani also comes from FEVER, and that is Christian MacKeltar, the Highlander who was accidentally turned into an Unseelie Prince by Mac and Barrens. Christian goes through his final stages of transition in Iced, and he is determined that Dani is his, and his alone. Poor Christian. He was a nice enough guy in FEVER, but now the Unseelie death-through-sex mojo has changed him into a succubus-like creature who is consumed by his sexual needs all the while he is trying to keep Dani safe from Ryodan and the other Unseelie Princes.

     The actual story line of Iced focuses on Dani's search for the reason that various buildings and groups of people are being iced over by an unknown perpetrator. People caught in the ice soon die because each frozen tableau eventually explodes. Ryodan wants Dani to figure out who is doing the freezing and why. Here's a description of the first frigid scene that Dani visits: "Each person and Fae in the room is frozen solid, silent, white, iced figurines. Twin plumes of diamond-ice crystals extend from many of their nostrils; exhales frozen....These folks look like they somehow got frozen right where they stood." (p. 42) As the story advances, Dani and Ryodan visit one frosty crime scene after another as they search for clues and dodge the icy explosions.

     Dani's situation gets worse when the police chief, Captain Jayne, steals her Sword of Light, which is one of only two weapons that can kill a Fae. The sword has always been Dani's protection from all of the supernatural evils of Dublin, and without it she is at the mercy of just about everyone. "Without my sword the princes can take me hostage, turn me into one of their mindless sex-crazed slaves and use me as a weapon." (p. 248) Dani's swordlessness results in a disturbing scene in which a Fae prince unleashes his sex glamour on Dani, and she rips her clothes off in a frenzy of lustvery disturbing, remember, she's only 14.

     There is one more man in Dani's life, and this one is (maybe) a human: Dancer, her long-time BFF. Dancer is a physicist and a genius, and he and Dani hang out together discussing Dublin's Fae situation, watching old movies, and eating junk food that they scrounge from closed-down convenience stores. Their relationship is close but platonic, although it appears to be on the edge of transitioning into something deeper. Needless to say, neither Ryodan nor Christian is a big fan of Dancer.

     Dani tells the story very effectively in the first-person voice. That voice is sometimes annoying, but, after all, she is an adolescent so being annoying is a given—a way of life. Two other characters occasionally interrupt Dani to voice their own descriptions of events: Christian, the soon-to-be Unseelie Prince, and Kat, the new Grand Mistress of the sidhe-seers, who is being visited in her dreams by the imprisoned Cruce, another of the Unseelie Princes. Cruce's identity and imprisonment played an important part in the final scenes of Shadowfever. He wants out of his dungeon cell, and he uses all of his magical powers in his attempts. Christian's story is interesting as he tries desperately to hold on to his human characteristics as he unwillingly slides into his new Unseelie identity, but Kat's clash with Cruce and especially her relationship with her human lover, Sean, don't add much to the plot of this book.

     This book pulled me straight into the action and kept me reading in a can't-put-it-down mode until the unpredictable and very exciting finale. Although the age of the heroine is a minus, I still recommend the book highly for its well-developed characters, compelling action, and plot inventiveness. Moning is a masterful writer who maintains beautifully effective control over her story lines, and this book is no exception. The reader should be sure to pay attention to every detailparticularly the quotations from the Book of Rain that appear on the first page of each of the three sections in which the book is dividedbecause every one of them has meaning and provides clues. 

     Click HERE to read the first chapter of Iced. You can scroll down to read the excerpt on your screen, or you can click the "Download or Print" button for a pdf copy.

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