A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
Series: Merry Gentry #1
Published by Ballantine Books
Published on: September 30 2000
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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My name is Meredith Gentry, but of course it's not my real name. I dare not even whisper my true name after dark for fear that one hushed word will travel over the night winds to the soft ear of my aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness. She wants me dead. I don't even know why...
I fled the high court of Faerie three years ago and have been in hiding ever since. As Merry Gentry, I am a private investigator for the Grey Detective Agency: Supernatural Problems, Magical Solutions. My magical skills, scorned at the courts of Faerie, are valued in the human world. Even by human standards, my magic isn't flashy, which is fine by me. Flashy attracts attention and I can't afford that.
Rumour has it that I am dead. Not quite. I am Princess Meredith NicEssus. To speak that name after dark is to call down a knock upon your door from a hand that can kill you with a touch. I have been careful, but not careful enough. The shadows have found me, and they are going to take me back home, one way or another.
So the running is over. But the fighting has just begun...
Rich, sensual, brimming with dangerous magic, A Kiss of Shadows is a dazzling tour-de-force where folklore, fantasy and erotically charged adventure collide.
Laurell K. Hamilton is consistently a woman ahead of her time.
It started with her Anita Blake series back in 1993. Yes, that’s right—1993. I was . . . well, I’m not going to tell you how old I was in 1993, but suffice it to say, I was young enough that my mother wouldn’t want me reading an adult UF series, and that was BEFORE the Big Shift from straight-up UF to UF/erotica that took place in 2001 with book 10.
So first Hamilton was one of the pioneers in the Urban Fantasy genre (if you could even call it a genre at that time), then she began shifting her writing into the largely unexplored territory of erotica.
That shift displeased many of Hamilton’s fans, and she was criticized for lowering the standards of popular fiction in general. She was attacked, and called all manner of nasty things, her writing referred to as “smut” and the so-called decline of her series the result of laziness.
I’m not going to undermine the outcry of the readers who genuinely have zero interest in the sexuality-driven series that Anita Blake became. If I hadn’t adapted (like multitudes of others), I would have also been hugely disappointed that a previously beloved series transformed into something I found utterly distasteful.
But I did adapt, and Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series has never been anything other than what it started as—Fae (YAY!) focused UF chock full of sexy times.
If that’s not your thing, then it’s not your thing. To each their own, and all that.
But do not try to convince me that Hamilton traded well-written, plot-driven books for sex, sex, and MORE sex, THE END, b/c it simply isn’t true:
I leaned my back against the windows and the thick, hanging smog. The day was as grey as my boss, but his color was a cool, crisp grey, like clouds before a spring rain. What lay outside the window felt heavy and thick like something you would try to swallow, but you’d never get it down. It was a day to choke on, or maybe it was just my mood.
Say what you want about LKH, but girl can write.
So by now, most of you know that I love A-L-I-E-N-S. But there is one thing that I love even more than A-L-I-E-N-S and that is . . .
And LKH’s Merry Gentry series embodies precisely what I love about Fae—DELICIOUS ambiguity.
Are they good, or are they bad?
It has never been, nor will ever be that simple. At best you’ll find mostly good or bad Fae, but even then, the basic nature of the Fae is so capricious that you can never know what they’re going to do.
I LOVE that.
Another common theme in Fae-based books is difficulty with procreation, and this is certainly the case in A Kiss of Shadows.
The Fae, though practically immortal, have been dwindling for centuries. The Unseelie Queen has but one heir, her son Cel, who is becoming more and more unignorably unstable. Enter Merry, the Queen’s part-human niece, who is brought back into the fold and offered a bargain:
She can pick as many of the Queen’s personal guard as she wants as lovers, and if she becomes pregnant within the next three years, the Queen will abdicate, making Merry the new Queen, and the father of the child the Consort and King.
Guess how much Cel likes that proposition—abouthismuch<——no spaces = notalot.
Yes, there’s sex, and LOTS of it. But there’s also a good plot and lots o’ action as well . . . the other kind of action, get your mind out of the gutter. *snorts*
Also, the Fae folklore is spot-on. The Seelie, though not much of a presence yet, are believably depicted as the “shining ones” that are not nearly the creatures of goodness and light that humans perceive them to be, and the Unseelie are a multitude of hideous creatures, as well as the Seelie-like (in appearance anyway) royal sidhe.
Basically, I loved it.
I would recommend A Kiss of Shadows to anyone who doesn’t mind a healthy dose of sex in their UF, but especially to those who have read and liked (loved?) Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, or the independently published Fae Chronicles by Amelia Hutchins. I won’t absolutely guarantee that if you like either of those, you’ll like this, but it’s a near thing, and given that this series predates Fever by 5 or 6 years, I think it’s safe to say that Merry Gentry paved the way for other books like this, Fever and Fae Chronicles included.