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Third of Marjorie Liu's Iron Kiss trilogy, and decidedly not the place to start. I've tagged it as romance because that's where it was in the store and Liu's other books are paranormal romance, but honestly I don't think these are, because I don't think a book is a romance if the protagonist is in a committed relationship at the start and maintains it throughout. They are urban fantasy*.

They are also my favorite Liu, although I found this one mildly incoherent, in that I-can't-keep-track-of-all-the-factions way. (Mind you, I am ill and was reading fast due to a time crunch. Maybe it's more coherent if neither of those apply.) They are refreshingly unsentimental and relatively cliche-free.

The protagonist, Maxine Kiss, is the latest of a line of demon-hunting women who also happen to have a hereditary pact with some demons. During the daytime, the demons appear as moving tattoos, providing a socially unacceptable suit of impenetrable armor. During the night, they peel off her skin and act as her bodyguards. There's a plot involving various things about Maxine's heritage and the huge prison all the demons are being kept in and some sneak out of, but for me the heart of these books is the interaction between Maxine and her demons, the demons she knows she will some day pass to a daughter, leaving herself vulnerable and liable to be killed in short order by something-or-other seeking vengeance. Her relationship with them is really well done, the way she cares about them and knows they care about her but can never quite be certain what's going on in their heads.

Oh, yeah, and I like her relationship with her boyfriend better than I like her actual boyfriend, but they have a very good relationship which is one I would not actually consider terrifying and horrible if I saw it on actual people, which is extremely rare in the entire genre of urban fantasy at the moment. Mostly, the men in this genre, I want to slap with some kind of restraining order.

Now if only I could figure out whether the plot made any. damn. sense. Ah well. Liu has never been best at endings, or at plots for that matter; the plots have a tendency to turn into indecipherable rushing about. She's good at having cool bits, at characters, at entertaining banter, and at mostly not making me want to rant about the pernicious effects of the kyriarchy on the cultural collective id. There are days I'll take that. This was one of them. If she wants to write another in this series, I'd be fine with that, especially since I can't tell whether everything resolved. If not, I hope she writes something else I like as well, because frankly I am kind of done with her Dirk and Steele books as they seem to have started leaving out the banter.

I note there is also a newish Nalini Singh. I can't figure out whether I'm sick and tired enough to feel in need of that particular Id Vortex. At any rate, I notice that I keep thinking about Nalini Singh and Marjorie Liu at the same time, because my brain inexorably pairs them as some kind of matter/anti-matter thing. I don't know. Does that make sense to anybody else?

* My kingdom for different terminology, because I still hear 'urban fantasy' and think Charles de Lint from when I was a teenager. This is not that, 'k? In modern urban fantasy a larger percentage of the cast wears leather.


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March 2017

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