Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Bastard Reaction: The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay
The Hour of Dust and Ashes is the third book in the Charlie Madigan series, you can read Mihir's Thoughts on the previous books here and here. I quickly became a fan of Kelly Gay after reading The Better Part of Darkness partly because I thought Charlie was simply a badass character and really enjoyed the political intrigue and procedural the book presented. Not only that, it was action packed, and Gay created a world in which actions have consequence, sometimes ruthless ones.
Though most enjoyed the sequel The Darkest Edge of Dawn more, I still think the first book was the better one particularly because the elements that brought me to the series in the first place were just better. What the second book did better though was improve in the interpersonal aspects and character interaction, but it was more of a thriller type of story, whereas I'm more of a mystery/suspense reader. Also, as Mihir illustrates in his review, there was indeed a scene which I found problematic. No surprise that it involved love drama aspects, but it was between two characters that I really felt would have been better if they didn't go there, and then the prospects of a possible love triangle, which I personally don't enjoy, but many do.
With these issues in mind, I was a bit nervous of what I might encounter in this third book, even though it certainly was one of my more anticipated urban fantasy books of the year. Right off the bat, most of my worries were put to rest as we get entangled in a fun action sequence which served as the launching pad of the book and many of its plot-lines. What ensues though is a slow development in which we find our protagonist, Charlie, introspecting on how she has gotten to this point, and ruminating on the event described above which had become problematic for me personally. And this went on for a good portion of the first half, of course also investigating the mystery at hand.
Then the second half came and it was awesome in my opinion. Still not all there for me action wise, but some really good plot directions I thought. More importantly though, some revelations come forward that made me do pretty much a 180° in regards to that problematic romantic plot-line I was obsessively worrying about. I'm sure the great majority had enjoyed that development, but for those who had not I think there's a good chance the second half will rectify it.
In The Hour of Dust and Ashes we find ourselves with Charlie still trying to figure out how to help those she loves after the fallout of the first book and also dealing with threats due to events of the second book. She's still dealing with some relationship issues involving her ex, currently possessed by a Revenant, and her partner Hank with whom Charlie's relationship has become a bit strained and, if anything, confused. Through all of this, a couple who was addicted to Ash have committed suicide, and Charlie has been called to the case wondering if it was a result of depression (an Ash addiction consequence) or if they were possessed and forced to do so, which would become a murder investigation. The book is not so much of a "who done it" type of book, but more of trying to figure out what is actually happening and how to put a stop to it. And to do just that, Charlie will have to put her own life at risk by finding help of legendary creatures that seem intent in killing her in the process and go through Hell in the process.
Personally I would like to see a bit more focus on procedural and the political intrigue aspects, which has taken a bit of a back seat since the first book. Due to some events in The Hour of Dust and Ashes, I really think we'll see a return of some of that in the next book, particularly on the political intrigue aspects. I really think this was a transitioning book, a book of growing, and of defining. Charlie, while being as confused as ever, she is certainly growing as a person and finding more clarity on what she wants for herself and on how to get it. And, you know me, always will want more action. I also thought we didn't get to see much of Charybdon, so be prepared for that, but understandable with how events progressed once there.
One thing I really like though is that events that occur on previous books still matter as the series goes along. We saw some growth in the mother daughter relationship in the second book, and that's still present in the sequel, when many others would have fabricated other issues just to keep the dramatic friction in place, or ignore the improvement completely.
Several hanging plot-lines get a satisfactory conclusions, while new exciting ones have begun. The Hour of Dust and Ashes is a welcomed entry to the series, though I struggled through some of it, I think the author delivers on the payoff. I recommend this series with little reservation to urban fantasy fans, and to those casual urban fantasy readers, well I'll deal with you guys on a case by case basis. Still one of my favorite series in the genre at the moment.
Cover done once again by Chris McGrath, I think it's the best in the series yet. I mean, we got a Dennis Leary look-a-like playing Hank, what's not to like?
Kelly Gay has simply created a well balanced series that I'm sure the great majority of urban fantasy readers will find something to like here. I'm of a mind to think that the next book will be the best one yet, so hopefully the author delivers on that prospect; no pressure.
The Hour of Dust and Ashes was released recently on August 30, and you can buy yourself a copy from The Book Depository.
Make sure to visit Kelly Gay's site, and if you're a YA reader make sure to read her other series written under the name of Kelly Keaton.