The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay
Series: Charlie Madigan #1
Published by Pocket
Published on: November 24, 2009
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?
The Better Part of Darkness boasts a large variety of mythical creatures and intense subplots. Within the first fifty pages, we are introduced to Charlie, a woman who just had a fight with an oracle (who will not be mentioned again this book), just died eight months ago, just split up with her childhood lover, joined the force like five years or so ago to avenge the death of her twin, just found her daughter’s babysitter comatose in the school bathroom (the latest victim of something paranormal), just beat up three jinn, and miraculously healed herself.
Any one of these would make for sufficient conflict. With so many and the exponential growth of them as the book goes on, nothing feels quite as detailed as it should. On the other hand, for all the little time we spend with the sizable cast, the characterizations are razor sharp i.e. the teenage daughter about twelve years old has a vicious wit that disguises her inherent vulnerability, Charlie’s partner on the force has a confident air being an offworlder and all, Charlie’s former husband has a kind heart but just enough bad decisions to make you wonder, etc.
Usually, the supporting cast keeps it light and humorous while Charlie brings the oommph and emotional instability critical to establishing an urban fantasy series. The sheer profusion of subplots guarantees that there is plenty more to see and it is better to have too many subplots that are all eager to take center stage than one plot that has stage fright.
The treatment of where the magical creatures come from and how the magical creatures are described straddles the line between sci-fi and fantasy (just the way I like it). It appears all the goblins, jinns, and “vampires” come from another world that ours has opened up a portal to and all the sirens come from an alternate world we made contact with as well.
Charlie notes that the words goblin, jinn, and siren are applied loosely because although these creatures do resemble what humans wrote of in our folklore, they are not quite the same. She does not go on to describe the discrepancies. Instead as she interacts with them, we are left to form our own images of exactly how these creatures do and do not fit what we would think they would be. Some may call this a lack of detail – which is fair since my earlier point did stress the lack of detail due to subplot profusion – but I took it as a nice opportunity to compare notes, a little freedom.
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