TBR Challenge: Were-Hyenas, Paranormal Enough?

The official suggested theme for TBR Challenge this month is “Paranormal or romantic suspense.” I have a few RS in the queue; I read very little in that genre but keep picking up titles that sound interesting, only to ignore them because I’m not in the mood. I fully intended to dig into Pamela Clare’s I-Team series some more (I’ve read one and liked it a lot, but I have to be in an RS mood, and I haven’t been). As it turned out, the day snuck up on me — good thing Wendy tweeted a reminder yesterday, or there would be no review from me. I panicked, went to the Kindle archive, and found the perfect thing: an Ilona Andrews novella!
MagicMourns

Magic Mourns is book 3.5 in the Kate Daniels series, and was originally published in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology. It’s the story of Andrea, one of Kate’s protégées and colleagues, who is taking Kate’s calls while Kate is recuperating (presumably from the events of book 3). The call she takes leads her to Cerberus (yes, THAT Cerberus), who is chasing Raphael, the sexy werehyena who has been attempting to romance Andrea for months. They end up working together to figure out how vampires, stolen corpses, and the mythology of Hades all fit together.

Mind you, I’m far enough out of step in the Kate Daniels series that I haven’t read the book to which this is the companion novella, so I had no idea who the main characters were. I suspect that wouldn’t be true for a lot of readers, and they might find this short too full of unnecessary backstory — I really don’t know how much of what Andrea shares about herself and her past is contained in the other book. But for me, it was great; I had no trouble following the story or getting into the characters. Andrea’s rejection of her feelings for Raphael is more than just the standard “he’s a womanizer and can’t be faithful” reasoning, and I thought the short form of the novella (77 pages) was right for the intensity of Andrea’s choice to take the risk of telling Raphael her truth and giving the two of them a chance. I did feel that Raphael was a little too good to be true, and I’m guessing that his “bad boy” dimension is on display more in the preceding books.

I enjoyed Magic Mourns a lot, and I recommend it, but there were two things that struck me about reading it. The first was the level of information (almost info-dump) about the Hades myth — the long (especially for short fiction) explanation of Demeter, and Persephone, and the golden apples of Eris. I guess I can buy that these characters, in alternate history Atlanta, don’t know this stuff, but Sisyphus? How the Trojan War started? Come on, don’t we all know that? I certainly do, and the exposition felt excessive to me. I have to note, however, that when I checked Goodreads for a copy of the book cover to use here, I found several reviews talking about the book’s extensive research into Greek mythology, and it’s pretty clear that many readers didn’t already know this stuff. So in retrospect I’m less disappointed in the book and more disillusioned with the general state of myth-literacy.

The other thing that niggles me, and that I would spend a LOT of time unpacking if I didn’t have a plane to catch today, stems from Twitter comments the other day by Meoskop about her discomfort with PNR because shifters (like aliens in some science fiction) have taken over some problematic race tropes (“plantation”). I’m woefully understanding her points here (take a look at her Twitter feed from October 14), but I did find myself thinking about Andrea’s personal story with a strong sense of “code for race.” I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m not sure it would have struck me quite that way if I’d read it when it was first released.

This feels short and incomplete, but as I say, today’s a travel day and I’m already pushing it. Maybe more in the comments, if folks have thoughts to share?

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lynn Spencer
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 09:58:40

    Hmm…I was slammed at work last week so I missed Meoskop’s comments. Interesting stuff. I hadn’t thought of PNR as code for race but that is an interesting idea to ponder. I read some PNR but I will admit that I personally get a bit uncomfortable sometimes because PNR seems in some corners(though certainly not true of all PNR by a long shot) to be the refuge of the rape-y hero. Paranormal heroes can get away with more than a regular human hero and often readers will just blame it on whatever type of creature he is.

    Reply

  2. Wendy
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 13:46:46

    Lynn’s comments remind me of something I heard Jayne Ann Krentz say several years ago at an RWA Librarians Day. This was many years ago – back when paranormal was THE hot new thing in the genre. Single title contemporaries weren’t doing as well (small towns hadn’t saved the day yet), and some were lamenting the death of the Alpha hero. Krentz basically said, “He’s not dead, he’s in PNR.”

    But like Lynn, I get a bit annoyed with authors who use PNR (and these days, BDSM – but that’s another rant entirely) as a way to “condone” their heroes being asshats. Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. No sweetie, he’s not tortured and misunderstood. He’s just an asshole.

    Now I’m wondering if this could have been another reason leading up to my own paranormal burnout. Because heavens knows for every good PNR hero I read back in those early boom days of the sub genre, I encountered my fair share of jerks that should have stayed buried in the author’s desk drawer, hard drive, what have you.

    I hadn’t thought about PNR as code for race either! But I’m reading so little PNR these days that it’s not too surprising. Now to dig back through Meoskop’s Twitter feed……

    Reply

  3. meoskop
    Oct 17, 2013 @ 00:43:28

    I feel anyone wading through my twitter feed has been punked, actually. I think I’m going to talk more about that on Sunday – Janine had some interesting things to say about reader shame I’m considering right now.

    I share your pain over the state of myth-literacy today. Fervently.

    Reply

  4. SonomaLass
    Oct 17, 2013 @ 21:10:14

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone.

    I agree about rapey heroes; I don’t like them, and I don’t like giving them any excuse.

    Reply

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