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Day: November 4, 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!