Sunday, February 7, 2010

Non-Laughter Reviews: Three Days To Dead

Kelly Meding
Urban Fantasy, 2009

Premise: Bounty hunter wakes up following her death in the body of a stranger and learns she has three days to solve the triple mysteries of who killed her, who she is now, and who set her up for a crime she did not commit.

Cover: Attractive in a typical UF kind of way. Art gives an accurate idea of contents.

What Works: Apprentice Writer started the story with much anticipation after great buzz for this debut author and how much she enjoyed the 'other' Kelly's UF title released on same day ('Better Part of Darkness'; review here). To AW's delight, the story started off with a bang and just kept going, the three day deadline keeping the tension at a steady simmer.
Evangeline operates in a questionable part of town, where all sorts of alternate life forms have moved in without the knowledge of the human citizens who live in more upmarket neighborhoods. It is neither a happy nor successful form of multiculturalism; there is a lot of political power struggle and things go wrong so often between individual citizens there is a formal force in place to eliminate beings who transgress against those of other species too flagrantly. The force is kept busy, and Evy was recruited into it as a juvenile. Her background lacked any sort of privilege, and her manner throughout the story is convincingly streetsmart and unpolished. The creatures that inhabit the world are fascinating and wonderfully described in appearance and behavior: AW's favorites were the earth guardian and gargoyle. The love interest who eventually appears has some interesting talents and conflicts of his own; there are some poignant scenes when she struggles to figure out which of her former and current beings she truly is, and when he struggles to convince her of the authenticity of his feelings for her even though her outside shell has changed. Provided food for thought about the nature of identity and love.

What Doesn't
Two minor things that AW was willing to go along with:
- a couple of spots where characters get right down to sharing information and trust with complete strangers rather than biding their time; was willing to suspend disbelief because, hello, a whole lot has to happen in the three ticking timeclock days Evy has left on Earth,
- AW wished for Evy to display some capacity to adapt to an elevated environment and figure out that maybe, the equivalent of fae royality should be treated on a different level than her usual brash-to-the-point-of-rudeness manner adopted with scum she's about to blow away or professional rivals. Evy didn't demonstrate such adaptive skill, in this and some other situations, but in all fairness her manner was completely consistent with established personality and backstory.

One minor thing that that placed a bit more strain on suspension of disbelief:
- a late battle scene with goblins. Without getting too spoilerific: considering the role of the main battle opponent, and the number of opponents involved in the skirmish, the way the situation was described did not make sense to AW. Then again, what does she know about goblin battle tactics? Maybe the problem lay with her under par imagination skills.

One non-minor thing that made this reader say WHAAA??? (not really a spoiler since this happens right at the start):
- reference is made multiple times to an incident in the backstory where Evy took cover with a group of shapeshifters after becoming a fugitive due to implication in the murder of her partners. In retribution for taking her in, the building where they live is burned with no survivors reported. AW could have dealt with this if the shapeshifters were landcreatures, or maybe if they lived underground. BUT - they are avian. So, a building full of people with the capacity to form wings and escape via windows and balconies - just somehow didn't? If they'd been described as were-penguins or were-emus, it would still have been OK, but their group name is Owlkins. ???????

Overall: A high-octane debut with more than enough elements in the mix to make this reader mark her calendar for publication date of second in the 'Dreg City' series, "As Lie the Dead".

Learn more about the author here and here.

The Fine Print: AW won this book from the delightful Fiction Vixen.



Fiction Vixen said...

So glad you enjoyed Kelly Medding's Three Days To Dead. You bring up a few points in your review I'd like to look into. It's been a while since I read the book so I'll have to do some re-reading. Nice review.

M. said...

Hi Vixen! thanks. As I recall, you liked this book also.

M. said...

Hi Vixen! thanks. As I recall, you liked this book also.

Julia Smith said...

Are you sure this was a non-laughter review?

'were-penguins or were-emus'

I laughed.

M. said...

haha, julia.
yes, i'm waiting for the day someone writes a werepenguin story

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