Monday, April 19, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Kelly Gay

The Better Part of Darkness
Pocket, Nov. 2009

Back Cover Blurb:
Atlanta: it's the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil....

Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?

The Good:
It’s refreshing to have a heroine who’s a divorced, single-mom instead of some nubile twenty-something virgin. As a mom of a tweener myself, I could certainly identify with the bond between mother and daughter. The author brilliantly captured the fear and single-minded determination of a mother bear out to protect her young when they are threatened.

I enjoyed the Bath House scene (I would have kept my bra and panties on under my toga too) and the character of Rex was a hoot.

I also liked how the author didn’t tie up everything in the end with a nice pretty bow. Charlie made many bad decisions for the right reasons, but those choices had nasty consequences. We know in the last chapter that Charlie is going to have mistakes to fix in the next book of the series.

The Bad:
For some reason, the author felt it was necessary to cram every known (and some unknown) paranormal creature into one book, as if she feared she wouldn’t get to publish book 2 so she had to include them all here. In the first two chapters alone we not only have the beings from off-world Charbydon and Elysia, but we also have an oracle (referenced to but not seen), a siren, a necromancer, a witch with the power to animate plants, an imp, a gargoyle, a goblin, and jinn warriors. I needed a score card to keep them all straight. By chapter 3, I was waiting for vampires and shapeshifters to make an appearance. The author didn’t disappoint (sarcasm intended). Later in the book we learn the Charbydon royals are cursed to drink blood to live. There ya go – vampires. No werewolves though. Guess they pop up in book 2.

The Ugly:
For someone who died racing into a dangerous situation, Charlie doesn’t seem to learn from her mistakes. She is constantly ditching her partner to rush off on her own, running head-long into peril because she thinks she doesn’t need anyone’s help. She’s been a cop for over a decade. She should trust and rely on her partner. And she’s a single mom for crying out loud. She shouldn’t be taking unnecessary risks with her life unless there is no other choice. Once in the beginning I could buy, but she does it over and over and over again. That doesn’t make her gutsy or tough. That makes her stupid.

There were numerous eye-rolling moments:
• I don’t think there was a single ‘human’ who didn’t have some kind of paranormal power, even before the other worlds were discovered and the off-world beings entered our plane. Even Charlie’s ex-husband dabbled in black crafting (which was never explained to my satisfaction). Why did everyone have to be paranormal? Couldn’t some of them just be a plain old Joe? The only un-gifted humans were the police chief and Charlie's daughter. Bet you $5 the daughter gains powers when she hits puberty.
• Charlie can heal a deep gash in her hand in minutes but it takes all day for a sprained ankle to heal? These kinds of inconsistencies bother me.
• The mad scientist apparently lives at his lab because he’s there 24-7 whenever Charlie comes to call. Mighty convenient if you ask me.
• Her partner somehow appears just in the nick of time at the lab, even though there are a dozen guards and heavy security in the building. Didn’t know he had the power of invisibility because that’s the only way he could’ve gotten in there unnoticed.
• Charlie learns how to skillfully use her new powers after a 15 minute crash course from a master mage? My, she’s a fast learner.
• Charlie is surrounded by a dozen bad ass jinn warriors but when she attacks and kills their leader, they just stand there and watch? Don’t think so.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
Guess you can tell this book was not a keeper for me. It took me over a week to read it, which is not a good thing. The last book took me less than two days. Anyway, I seem to be in the minority. It’s received rave reviews and is up for not one, but two RITAs this year (pretty impressive). Obviously many readers think Gay has done it right and done it well. So what was ‘IT’? According to many reviewers, it’s World Building. The author has turned Atlanta into a dark and magical place, without huge info dumps to boggle the mind. I will give her props for that. If I could have over-looked the multitude of Huh? moments that pulled me out of the story, I think I would have enjoyed the book more. But as a writer, I’m picky and those sorts of things bother me. Plus, urban fantasy is a very hot commodity right now and editors are putting them out by the dozen. So there you have it: vivid world building and a hot genre that’s currently flying off the shelves. That was the ‘IT’ Factor for THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS.

Next Up:
ANGEL VINDICATED by Viola Estrella


  1. I give you credit for sticking it through to end.

  2. If you like the Atlanta setting (Atlanta, the New New York City??) you might enjoy Ilona Andrews' series. I do enjoy seeing the nonstandard urban settings cropping up.

  3. I'm really enjoying this series and your search for the IT factor. Thanks.