Series Title: MOOKIE PEARL SERIES
Plot Type: Dark Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence-5; Sensuality-1; Humor-3
Publisher and Titles: Angry Robot
The Blue Blazes (5/2013)
The most common monsters that prowl the tunnels are goblins (aka gobs, gobbos), but a few other species managed to make it through as well, including the Naga (aka Snakefaces) and Trogbodies (rock-flesh Golem). Less powerful beings also abound, including roach-rats, milk spiders, and brimstone cankerpedes. The gobs routinely attack humans in the tunnels, and one of their weapons is a blunderbuss that shoots cankerpede ammunition, with these results: The victim's body is peppered with holes, and he "screams and thrashes as cankerpedes come pouring out of those holes, squalling squirming, chewing at him." (p. 217) (I warned you that this series is very dark—also graphic in its descriptions.)
Sometimes, a monster will slip through and mate with a human, a coitus that always results in a pregnancy. If the father is human, the monstrous mother generally keeps her child in the Great Below, but if the mother is human, the child lives in the surface world: "The horror of the half-and-half is unparalleled. Consider it: you are a child with only one human parent. Your other parent is no parent at all, merely a contributor of darkly squirming seed, a mote of ill magic spawned in the cracks and crevices of the Great Below….The design of the monstrous half cannot be predicted…nor does it seem related to the inhuman parentage….They are embraced by neither world but possess the power and frailty of each. Our world sees them as human, but a human that doesn't quite seem right." (p. 135) A half-and-half can glamour itself to disguise its nonhuman body, but the glamour is never perfect. In book 1, one of the key supporting characters is a half-and-half goat man—a satyr.
Mookie reminds me of Terrible, the heroine's anti-hero soul mate in Stacia Kane's CHESS PUTNAM/DOWNSIDE GHOSTS series. Both are tough, scarred behemoths who have pledged their loyalty and their lives to their mobster bosses. (Click HERE to read my review of Kane's series.)
Long ago, Mookie turned his attentions away from his wife (now ex-wife) and daughter (Eleanora, aka Nora, aka Persephone) so that he could earn the money to pay their mortgage and send Nora to a good school. He stayed away to keep his dangerous life from polluting his family, but Nora has always viewed her father's absence as desertion.
NOVEL 1: The Blue Blazes
Mookie manages to fight off the poison and make his way to a mob meeting where Zoladski—leader of the Organization—announces to his top lieutenants that he has terminal cancer and that his grandson, Casimir, will be taking over. When Casimir is murdered within hours of this announcement, a new group forces their way into power, and life begins to go downhill for the Organization's foot soldiers. The catalysts that set off the action are Nora's actions, the Boss's cancer, and Casimir's death.
The book is divided into three parts: Salt & Smoke, Blood & Brine, and Meat & Monsters. These parts are further subdivided into chapters, each of which begins with a diary entry written by a cartographer who went down into the Great Below to map it out, but lost his way and, eventually, his mind. This is an inventive way to provide the mythology. From these diary pages, we learn about the structure of the Great Below, the origin and characteristics of the supernatural beings who live there, and the importance of the Five Occulted Pigments, which are found only in the Great Below. Each Pigment has a particular magical power: Blue Blazes (Cerulean); Vermilion (the Red Rage); Viridian (the Green Grave); Ochre (the Golden Gate); and Caput Mortuum (the Violet void or the Death Head). Three of the Pigments play important parts in this story, particularly the titular Blue Blazes (aka Cerulean, Peacock Powder, Bluebird, BB). "Users smudge some of the blue power on the temples to bring on effects that include: preternatural strength preternatural toughness, as well as a wiping away of the illusions that keep mortal men from seeing the truth of the denizens of the Underworld." (p. 46) BB has become a street drug used by humans (aka Blazeheads), who can be identified by their "Smurf thumbs." Mookie uses BB to identify the monsters who are masquerading as humans and to amp up his strength during battles.
The story follows Mookie and Nora on their separate paths, as Mookie searches for one of the Five Pigments, and Nora tries at first to keep to her power plan but then just tries to hang on to her life. Their adventures include a trip to Daisypusher (an Underworld town inhabited by the undead), a feminist gang of street-wise roller-derby skaters, several life and death battles with various enemies, and the requisite slam-bang Underworld showdown with the villains.
Wendig writes in a wonderfully dark and descriptive manner as he introduces us to Mookie and his world. Although most of the characters are truly monstrous, they have so much depth and quirkiness that they are quite entertaining (in an evil, train-wreck sort of way). By the end, I even had a soupçon of sympathy for the primary villain. I'm looking forward to the next book, in which Nora will be adjusting to her new life and her on-the-mend relationship with Daddy (who may have a love interest to liven up his life).