Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Book Number Two

Last night I finished Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton. If you don't read genre fiction, you may not know that Hamilton is up there with Anne Rice when it comes to writing about vampires. She has a smooth, literate writing style, tremendous descriptive ability, good character development and plots that keep you turning pages. Swallowing Darkness is not about the undead though. This is part of a series that focuses on the fae.

The lead character, Meredith NicEssus, is a fairy princess. Doesn't that sound sweet? Part human and part brownie as well, she's also a private detective living in L.A. The book opens with her grandmother getting killed by a curse from another grandchild. Her father, a king, was assassinated. She was raped by her uncle, the King of one court of the fairies. Her cousin and she are competing to see who gets the throne of the other court from her aunt, a mad sadist who delights in the torture of her guards. The winner will be the first to bear a child. Oh, did I mention that Meredith is pregnant with twins by three (or is that four) different fae? And every other magical creature you can think of either has a grudge against her because of her family or wants to sleep with her or both. The story line is about being caught up in politics, war, passion, and love, and what one will do for each of those things. That's what makes it interesting.

Hamilton has created a world here, one with roots in old myths and yes, fairy tales. The ties are subtle. They creep up on you until you smile with recognition at a character from one of the stories our great grandparents knew. As you read, you want to know more about how this world is structured and how it works. You see the Seelie Court, which only seems to be all sweetness, beauty and light, the Unseelie Court, the darker aspect of fairydom and the Sluagh Court, basically the kingdom of nightmares (the only place that offers the heroine anything close to safety). Like the old fairy tales, Hamilton doesn't shy away from the dark, scary, grotesque and bloody. You can tell her roots are in the world of hard boiled P.I. fiction, and she brings that gritty realism to the world of magic. Phillip Marlowe would be at home in this world where magical weapons appear by the gift of gods to those who deserve them, but he might have to work not to be wide eyed. I think that's a pretty neat literary trick.

Swallowing Darkness is also very graphically erotic, as are the rest of Hamilton's books. I nearly quit reading Hamilton because the books sometimes just turned pornographic. Write as many books as Hamilton has, and I guess you choose the easy route sometimes. I lose interest though if I have to stop and figure out who has what where. In Swallowing Darkness, Hamilton regains her balance. There's plenty of sex all right, but it has its place in the larger story.

If you're interested in Swallowing Darkness, but haven't read any other of Hamilton's books, don't start with this one. The series begins with A Kiss of Shadows. I've read a couple of the other books in the series, and after finishing this one, I want to go back and read them in order.

I've got my next book picked out. It's non fiction, and I'm not ready to say what it is yet. A little explanation might be in order, but I will be writing about it as well. I also took some time today, while waiting my turn in traffic court to read a little of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. It definitely made the court room more bearable.


Blogger alphawoman said...

I read all of Anne Rices' books until sometime around PAndora i think...which is a very long time ago! I love reading your reviews. I may start doing the dame as I am at a loss for journal entry subjects these day.

January 07, 2010 12:34 PM  

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