In her fifth outing, Harper Blaine—a tough, sexy, female private detective who sees dead people walking around Seattle—comes to a turning point in her career as a Greywalker. The monster who groomed her to become what she is, is almost ready to use her for the fiendish purpose he has cherished for centuries. Harper’s closeness to the Grey has become a torment that will soon grow to overwhelm all her mental and physical filters. The weird side is becoming more solid to her than the real world. The changes happening to her seem sure either to kill her or drive her mad—neither of which will save her from being used by Wygan, the so-called Pharaohn-ankh-astet, in his bid to control all the magic in the world.
In the fourth “Greywalker” novel, featuring a tough female private detective with paranormal powers, Harper Blaine plunges deeper into the undead subculture and encounters varieties of vampire that I don’t know how to spell. So it’s going to be tough telling you about them. But I shouldn’t complain, because if anybody has a tough time on this case, it’s Harper.
More than five years ago, I reviewed “The Boy Who Saved Baseball” by this author, who is totally not the actor from Three’s Company. In that review, I said that I planned to read more of his books in the near future. I was true to my word, but only to the extent that I have had this book and another by the same author on my shelf all these years. It’s no reflection on my feelings for baseball fiction (which are generally warm) or for this author (intrigued, respectful). It’s just an occupational hazard of being a book junkie whose shelves are jammed two books deep with titles I’ve been planning to read for ages. So many books, so little time!
In the story before the story before the story, four representatives from a peaceful, bucolic valley traveled into the Empire to the south in search of a magician who would build a magical barrier around their valley, protecting it from both northern marauders and the conscripting, taxing powers of the Empire. Eventually a magician named Faheel fixed things so that, as long as the male descendants of Ortahl the miller sang to the northern snows, an ice dragon would keep the pass closed to barbarian invasion; and as long as a female descendant of Urla the farmer fed barley to the unicorns and sang to the cedars, a sickness in the forest to the south of the valley would keep men from the Empire out as well. This protection held for twenty generations.
Here is the third “Greywalker” mystery featuring Harper Blaine—a former ballerina turned private detective who, since a near-death experience two books ago, can see, move, and act inside the realm between the natural and the supernatural, called the Grey. Harper has already added experience with vampires, revenants, and poltergeists to her curriculum vitae. In this third outing, she gets to add zombies and a native American monster named Sisiutl.
Before “Twilight” was a gleam in Stephenie Meyer’s eye, author Anne Rice created a sensation with her series of novels about a race of beautiful, sensual vampires. Rooted in Egyptian mythology and very distinct from most vampire lore up to that time, Anne Rice’s vampires were created by being drained of blood to the point of death, then allowed to save themselves by drinking in turn the blood of the vampire who made them. They did not fear garlic, crucifixes, holy water, or silver. Even wooden stakes were only a danger to them if the sun came up while they were struggling to get free.
Today, if you ask me what I think about the relationship between “Harry Potter” (or other fantasy tales) and religion, I will say something like: “I’ve noticed that many fantasy tales are open to a wide variety of religious interpretations. Personally I just read them for the entertainment.”
The first author to win both the Newbery Medal (for “Walk Two Moons”) and the Carnegie Medal (for “Ruby Holler”) here deviates from her general habit of depicting present-day kids in dramatic situations. Instead, she conjures a make-believe kingdom somewhere in medieval Italy, with a king and a queen, a princess and two princes, hermits, peasants, servants, and knights.
In the first of (so far) three books in a series titled “The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme”, we become acquainted with an unusual member of the dwarf-like race of the Nain. Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme is the youngest son of a family of shipwrights. Each of his older brothers has a respectable beard and the mastery of one specialized area of the ship-building business, from boiling pitch to forging iron. The whole family is unusual compared to most Nain, who prefer to live underground, digging precious stones and metals out of the earth; Ven, as we will see, surpasses even his own family in straying from the Nain norm.
While “Emma” has these qualities, the reader must flap his wings a little more often to keep up the momentum. Perhaps it is only my impression, but the novel seems a bit longer, the dramatic tension a bit less taut, the main heroine a bit less admirable, and the incidents in her journey from bachelorettehood to wedded bliss a bit sparser and more pedestrian than their opposite numbers in S&S and P&P.