Archive for 4th November 2007

Review: A Lick of Frost, Laurell K. Hamilton

I hon­estly didn’t think Lau­rell K. Hamil­ton had it in her, but A Lick of Frost moved me to tears in spots. She man­aged real romance. I don’t even like read­ing romances, and I really hate cry­ing, but I couldn’t help it. I even found a quote to keep.

A Lick of FrostI don’t want to give out any spoil­ers, espe­cially since it’s quite new, but this novel could rea­son­ably be seen as the end to the Merry Gen­try series. I believe Hamil­ton will write at least one more book, to tie up some details and bring the series to seven vol­umes. All of the vol­umes have been fairly slen­der, and Hamil­ton is a guar­an­teed cash cow, so who knows how many books there will actu­ally be? I could, how­ever, stop read­ing now.

This series is not one to start if, like me, you don’t like wait­ing for another book in order to know “what hap­pens next.” Gen­er­ally, I try to wait until a series is fin­ished before I begin to read it, in case it isn’t ever fin­ished. I detest cliffhang­ers, most espe­cially, and Hamil­ton has indulged in several.

Unlike most, the Merry Gen­try series is good enough that I keep read­ing despite my per­sonal pref­er­ence. I’ve never lost track of any impor­tant details between books, which is also strik­ing. I’d actu­ally like to have copies of this series to keep, as I might re-​​read them. In con­trast, I stopped buy­ing the Anita Blake books years ago, although I would con­sider pick­ing up used paper­backs to accom­pany those I already own just because Katie has expressed inter­est in them.

Sam is totally dis­in­ter­ested in just about any­thing hav­ing to do with vam­pires, were­wolves, or any­thing else that is too sim­i­lar to World of Dark­ness. I think it’s a reac­tion to hav­ing been so immersed in research and devel­op­ment when he worked for White Wolf, but I’ll leave him to explain it if we wishes. He does tend to scoff at any­thing too far off the “canon,” as it were.

Since he was involved in Changeling (his favorite), I would have thought the same applied to urban fan­tasy con­cern­ing faery. That’s true, usu­ally, but he’s been drawn into the Merry Gen­try books once or twice, and that’s say­ing some­thing (if only for the qual­ity of some sex scenes).

I know that one rea­son the Blake series has got­ten so tire­some is that sex has taken them over, but Hamilton’s attempts to make the sex part of the plot fall flat. An even big­ger one is Anita’s angst over the species and num­bers of her loves and sex part­ners. While she occa­sion­ally men­tions her reli­gious upbring­ing as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, as an ani­ma­tor (one who raises zom­bies) she left the safety of the Catholic church behind years ago. One could argue that its the­ol­ogy left real­ity behind, but in any case, her life is per­me­ated by and depends on magic that is bound up in reli­gion, but her overt reli­gious beliefs no longer match her real­ity or how she’s truly living.

I don’t even like to include the books in that short list of those that truly deal with polyamory, due to the fact that Anita has been so guilt-​​ridden and unhappy (until the last book or two), while con­tin­u­ing to fol­low her crotch (okay, the magic, if you believe Hamil­ton, but seriously…).

Mered­ith Gen­try never has that prob­lem. It is unfor­tu­nate that Hamil­ton has to reach into an imag­i­nary cul­ture to depict peo­ple who are com­fort­able with their sex­u­al­ity, includ­ing mul­ti­ple sex­ual part­ners, but at least she has done so. There is still an annoy­ing “I must pick only one!” theme, but it is made clear that Merry is being forced into such a choice by rel­a­tively recent Sidhe cus­tom — not her heart or her con­science. She repeat­edly stresses, in her inter­ac­tions with humans, that she has absolutely no shame about her lifestyle, and that the Sidhe have very dif­fer­ent ideas about such things than humans do.

I espe­cially appre­ci­ate the repeated theme of accept­ing diver­sity and appre­ci­at­ing beauty in every­one. “Every­one” never goes to far as to includ­ing, for instance, fat peo­ple, but there don’t seem to be any of those in fairy. Her lovers are all ter­ri­bly beau­ti­ful, even the half-​​Goblin and half-​​Sluagh, but she expressly does not reject those who are scarred or “dif­fer­ent” because of their her­itage or expe­ri­ences. There is over­much atten­tion to descrip­tion of appear­ances for my tastes, espe­cially details of every character’s cloth­ing, but that seems to be all too com­mon in any­thing with any focus on rela­tion­ships these days (or I’m just notic­ing it more — was it always there?)

While there’s still a lot of sex, the rea­sons for the abun­dance of sex and vari­ety of part­ners has been inte­grated into the Gen­try plot from square one. Despite that, it doesn’t feel like the sex scenes take over the books. Any­one with the least bit of prud­ery should still stay away from the series com­pletely, of course, but that’s made clear on the cov­ers and in the excerpts on the book flaps. Nobody who has ever picked up a Lau­rell K. Hamil­ton book in the last five years, at least, has any excuse for claim­ing naÏveté if he finds the con­tent too racy!