It is no secret that in the last 2 or 3 years I have becoming a huge fangirl of Daniel Abraham. My top 5 list in 2012 and 2010 both included books by him, and he only missed the 2011 list because of fierce competition. Hell, my 2012 list actually contained 2 entries by him: one for his fantasy work on The Dagger and Coin, and one for his Sci-fi collaboration with Ty Frank (written as James S. A. Corey). I was tepid on the first book of Abraham's I read (A Shadow in Summer) – looking back, my mini-review is fairly positive, but I remember being put off by some of the in-character childish rashness of the young protagonists. In spite of a bumpy start, by the end of the Long Price Quartet I was thoroughly hooked. With the addition of Dagger&Coin and The Expanse… yes, I’ve become a slavering fan, rabid for more books.
So you can imagine that I was duly horrified to learn that Abraham has a 3rd pen name: M.L.N. Hanover. And that he uses that pen name to write *gulp* trashy-looking urban fantasy. You know – the type that has midriff-baring, flowing-haired beauties with tramp-stamps on the cover. To say that I was mortified by this discovery is pretty apt.
I put this black mark against one of my favorite authors out of my mind for the better part of a year. But with every work of Abraham’s I read, I craved more. Faced with a 6 month period during which nothing from The Expanse or Dagger&Coin would be released… I caved and picked up Unclean Spirits, the first in his series of Urban Fantasy. I bought it for my kindle, because science forbid anyone see my with a cover that looks like that.
I read Unclean Spirits cover-to-cover in less than a day. It chagrins me a little to say it, but I enjoyed it. Quite a bit. It’s not stunningly amazing like this more current works – it lacks polish with the flow of the language, especially – but the pacing was great, the characters were solid and endearing, and the plot engaging. At first I felt like the supernatural elements of the world were a little forced, but once I got into the flow of the novel it worked for me.
As for the protagonist: she’s a feminist, she’s an atheist, she’s unashamed of her competence and her sexuality, and she’s all around awesome. Hanover (Abraham?) writes women well, and lays out some greatly controversial issues as just the bare, real facts – no, there’s not a god, yes, women are equal to men, and yes, you can be young and inexperienced but still smart and competent. I loved it.
I’m going to stop writing here; I’m afraid if I go on I’ll get going on a lengthy rant about the idiotic marketing decisions made in regards to book covers. It disgusts me to know that such good writing is hidden behind such a trashy cover. I know if I was put off by it, then hundreds of other fantasy fans probably are as well, and it’s not fair to the author or his work. No, really, I’m stopping now.
Bottom line: if you like Abraham and need something to tide you over, this is a pretty enjoyable read. It definitely falls into the category of “candy” but I’m happy to keep popping skittles until I have another Dagger & Coin novel. It looks like Abraham is still releasing books in this series, so maybe the more current ones will be even better!