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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!