I'm really not a big fan of urban fantasy. Discovering the author's created world is (for me) the most exciting part of fantasy, and starting in the real world takes a lot of the fun out of it. Besides, our own world but with magic, vampires, demons, werewolves and the like? It's so implausible that it only really comes off as comedy, like Harry Potter or Buffy. But I have this hypothesis that Daniel Abraham (as Mr Hanover is better known) can't write a bad book, so here I am, reading an urban fantasy with a semi-clad young woman on the cover.
The first book of a series is always the trickiest. The author has to establish the world, establish the premise, introduce the characters, deal with the 'oh no! this can't be happening to me!' stuff, and also produce a plot which captures the essence of the style, whether kick-ass action or romance or mystery or whatever, in a sufficiently entertaining way that the reader wants to rush out and buy the next book. It's a hard act to pull off, and very often it takes several books before the author hits his/her stride.
So I was kind of expecting this to be spotty, and yes, it is, a bit. The writing feels uneasy in places, almost like the author's trying too hard to be edgy: "Across from Eric in the dim orange light of the bar, a man laughed and the waitress smiled a tight little smile that didn't reach her eyes. Eric tapped his glass, the tick-tick-tick of his fingernails sounding like the rain against the window." And the names: Jayné. Chogyi Jake. Midian. Ex. And Aubrey - that one sounds like a gay bloke to me, or maybe an elderly classics professor at Oxford, not the cute love interest.
Maybe it's me, but I found Jayné's barely-out-of-her-teens angsting a bit tedious. Tears, tantrums, shopping sprees, more tears, breathless sex, tears again, sleepless agonising, frantic housecleaning and yet more tears, with instant wild mood-swings between despair and euphoria - tedious. Even though she has reason for a certain amount of mental instability, it doesn't make for entertaining reading (although the euphoric phases can be very funny). And is it a bit creepy that a man in his forties or thereabouts writes this sort of stuff? Although if I didn't know the author was a man, I wouldn't guess. He's always written women well, and I think that after one or two more books, when Jayné learns to stop agonising, she'll be an interesting character. Not sure about the love interest, though. He seems a bit insipid to me. The other two blokes are far more interesting (and one woman and three men? how is that going to work out in the long term, I wonder?).
But underneath it all is a readable and (when Jayné leaves the angst behind long enough to get on with it) pacy plot, and the action moments are terrific. Nothing quite goes right, despite all the careful planning, and it helps that the Big Bad is intrigued enough not to just kill everyone on sight and stops to talk about it first (why do they always do that?), but I very much liked that in the end it needed a lot of teamwork and people helping each other out to get things to work. There wasn't a huge amount of tension in it (well, they weren't all going to die, were they? and it is the first of a series...), but it was nicely done. A good three stars.