I’ve been a on YA s/f reading kick for a while now. Most of the books I “read” are audiobooks that I listen to while commuting or filing at work, because I have little spare time. One of my recent favorites was the Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Reese Brennan. I follow her LJ and she wrote a great essay about women in fiction during which she recommended Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites series.

I picked it up at Borders yesterday (yay coupons!) and gnawed my way through it over lunch breaks. It’s pretty good, and I’m curious to see where the author takes it.

The basic summary is boring: Kate, intrepid heroine, is a magic mercenary in Atlanta, where magic returns in waves from time to time. She’s investigating the death of her guardian, Greg, who died while working for an Order of protective knights. There are two main camps of potential baddies: wereanimals (the Pack) and vampires (actually run by necromancers).

Kate is tough, cold, and friendless, unless you count weapons as friends. She wisecracks and is stubborn, wears her hair in a braid, and acts a lot like early Anita Blake, right down to an uncomfortable dinner date at a fancy restaurant. She keeps a big sword on her back, camouflaged by her braid, and she Fights Crime.

This all seems very stock, but it has a certain charm. For one thing, it’s got a very Russian feel to it. (The main author is Russian; English is her second language, and she writes with her husband.) By which I mean, tons of the old parts of Atlanta are destroyed and they’re going to stay destroyed. It’s a fatalism that I find kind of refreshing. The descriptions of people and actions and places are detailed and rather fast paced. In some ways, it reminds me of a short story, where ideas are paramount. There are many ideas in this book–complex buildings, social structures among monsters, weapons, rituals, powers, types of humans, and they’re tossed in practically every other paragraph. It’s a short book, but very dense. This feels very Russian to me, although others might characterize it as something else.

There are many male characters in the book, and very few female ones (except as victims). There’s some fighting over who gets to date Kate, which I found tiresome. However, the essay I mentioned above indicated that part of the purpose of the series is to overturn the Anita Blake-style tough chick surrounded only by guys trope, so I’m curious to see what happens in future books. As per usual for me, the so-called “pack” dynamics drove me nuts (note to authors: alphas do not always insist on eating first; and when they do, it’s often so they can regurgitate to feed their young. Puppies generally eat first. But whatever.)

One other issue I had may be a personal quirk, because I’ve come across this in other books. You’re in the middle of a tough case; “no one” will believe that things aren’t finished; you’re certain that the killer is out there and may be after you. What do you do? Go to bed and sleep soundly. Baffling. Maybe I’m a workaholic, but I’d be calling around, following up leads, or at least having nightmares. Perhaps librarianship has a stricter work ethic than mercenary detectives.

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