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on February 22, 2007
Somewhere during the Anita Blake series, Laurell K. Hamilton decided to change the focus from horror/fantasy to sex, all the time and everyplace. With the newer Merry Gentry series, she cuts right to the chase.
"A Caress of Twilight" doesn't bother to follow up on its predecessor's sex-choked promise -- okay, we've got scheming and magic and urban fairies. But the second book only brings up a few interesting plot points, before tossing them away in favour of Merry's latest quickie.
In the previous book, faerie princess Merry Gentry is given a challenge by her aunt, the Queen: If she doesn't produce a kid before evil cousin Cel does, then Cel gets the throne. Outside the bedroom, however, things are getting messy: A mysterious force has left hundreds in California dead, and Merry has to find out why and who.
Coincidentally, an L.A. actress/fay-in-exile is seeking Merry's help for something that might be dangerous for them both, even as Merry learns that a bizarre, ancient power has been unleashed for murder. And what's more, Merry's very presence is beginning to awaken the godlike powers that the sidhe thought they had lost.
There's no point in beating about the bush -- this isn't a sex fantasy for the readers, but for the author. At least 90% of it is about sex in one way or another, and it's all centered on the beautiful, sexy, superpowerful, divinely-chosen Merry. Yes, it's really that bad.
Hamilton does reveal some interesting facets in this book, with a few new twists on the urban fantasy genre. The idea of the Starving Ones is simply astonishing. But none of those ideas are done justice here, because of the lackluster plotting and terrible writing. She repeats her own phrasing endlessly ("Hey, that sounds cool! I should use it again"), especially in the oddly dull sex scenes. They're explicit, yes, but also clinical and weirdly passionless. And sometimes simply weird.
Another example: her sexy male characters look alike -- flowing rainbow hair, odd colouring, poetry-laden powers. This would be okay, if they had individual personalities. Which they don't -- in fact, as her harem grows, the guys blend together even further. For that matter, they don't really do much except service Merry every so many pages.
Merry, of course, is the worst of all. She's an obvious fantasy alter ego for Hamilton. She's also chosen by the goddess, gauns superpowers casually, has every man panting with lust, and is (as Mary Poppins says) "practically perfect in every way." For a better writer than Hamilton, such a character might be appealing -- but Merry's arrogance is just nauseating.
"Caress of Twilight" is a cold caress. With lackluster writing and a heroine you can't help but loathe, the second book of the Merry Gentry series doesn't bode well for the future books.