Storm Born, 374 pgs.
Thorn Queen 374 pgs, Zebra Fantasy
Two more examples of the “bad ass babe” sub genre of urban fantasy. The basic premise is that shaman long ago banished all magical beings and humans with inherent magical ability to the Otherworld. (Shaman do not have innate magical ability, instead they use their wills to manipulate outer forces, usually after having undergone a traumatic initiation. Also, the humans with inherent magical ability eventually became the sidhe.) It’s the job of modern shaman to serve as a kind of border guard, keeping all supernatural beings on the other side of the border. Our Heroine is one such shaman. (For some reason, I find it very amusing that she’s based in Tucson, Arizona.)
In Storm Born, we’re introduced to our protagonist Eugenie Markham (called Odile Dark Swan by clients and her enemies–something that mister or miss blurb writer utterly failed to realize was a major plot point, that no one had known her real name until recently. Of course, I’m just as bad by giving away the same plot point. However, it’s totally not my fault because I was spoiled by the blurb first, and then confused as heck when her client called her “Odile”) just as she’s about to determine whether or not a sneaker is in fact possessed, or if her client has forgotten his meds. (The author seems to delight in doing this sort of thing to the character. It’s alternately funny and eye-rolling.)
The sneaker does indeed turn out to be possessed, and this is how Our Heroine makes the discovery that somehow, her real name has been leaked into the Otherworld. She also discovers that there’s apparently a prophecy saying that her son will Conquer the Worlds and now every male entity in the underworld wants to be her baby’s daddy, which for Eugenie is Massive Do Not Want. Much of the book is engaged in Eugenie fighting off or killing her “suitors” and trying to figure out What the Heck is Going On while searching for a girl who has been kidnapped by the fey. It also turns out that Eugenie is extremely powerful, and has the kind of power that no shaman has ever had. (Which means a considerable amount of the plot is dedicated to Eugenie learning to use said powers.) So, it’s kind of like reverse Merry Gentry. (In that, the major theme with Merry Gentry is that she HAS to get pregnant, and Our Heroine would rather NOT get pregnant, thank you.)
Of course, no bad ass fantasy urban fantasy romance is complete without the Two Rivals for Our Heroine’s Affections. Our candidates are a sidhe king (who wants to be the daddy of Ming the Merciless) and a half-kitsune veterinarian from Phoenix. (The writer seems too really, really loves working the “humorous juxtaposition of two incongruous things” trope, can you tell?) It is difficult to say which is supposed to be the Bad Choice because the writer has made them very three dimensional and interesting, with good and bad traits beyond “wants to be Darth Vader’s daddy,” and “names his pets after the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Thorn Queen is a little, and then a lot more serious. In the previous book, Eugenie accidentally inherits a kingdom (I won’t go into how it’s possible for someone to accidentally inherit a kingdom.) In this book, Eugenie alternately juggles her job as a supernatural border patrol officer with being a queen, and avoiding the responsibility of being a queen in favor of having a (somewhat) normal life. This causes friction between herself and her half-kitsune boyfriend who does not approve of her being a queen, and also with her ally (and potential romantic interest) the elf king. (Whom she is angry with because he’s the one that got her stuck with a kingdom in the first place.)
As she stumbles between her job as a Shaman and her duties as a queen, she comes across some extremely disturbing information. It seems that faerie girls are disappearing–possibly being kidnapped by someone on her side of the border between Earth and the Otherworld. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to get much help in solving this case. Her fellow shaman don’t care about faeries (except to banish them back to the Otherworld) and the nobles of the Otherworld can’t be bothered with what happens to the commoner girls who are apparently being kidnapped. Add to this an extremely pissy elf king who doesn’t like being set aside for a kitsune, a kitsune who doesn’t like the idea of Eugenie being a queen, and a bratty half sister she never knew she had, and Eugenie has a lot trouble on her hands.
This book is a bit grimmer than the previous book in that part of the plot revolves around revealing that the shaman acting as border guards are occasionally not exactly the white hats. Particularly disturbing is the attitude of both Eugenie’s father and kitsune boyfriend to the situation involving the kidnapped girls, and Eugenie’s father’s offhand dismissal of the possibility that the suspicious behavior of his colleagues is in fact suspicious. It also features Our Heroine having some pretty heavy, nasty things happen to her that cause her to do some extreme (though pretty much deserved) things to her opponents. Because of the jump between the more or less lighter tone of both the earlier parts of the book and the previous novel, I found this book a more difficult read because of the shift in tone. (This part of the story was fairly well handled, but extremely disturbing.)
Both books are very well written, with engaging characters. Storm Born and Thorn Queen are very good, entertaining examples of the urban fantasy-romance “bad ass babe” sub-genre.