I think that these books are one of the most interesting concepts that I've read in a while. I picked them up thinking they were going to be paranormal romance. They are definitely paranormal, but there's not anywhere near as much romance as I expected. Don't get me wrong, there is romance. It's a much smaller part of the novels than usual. This one fits much better into the newer urban fantasy subgenre. It's quickly becoming my favorite genre overall. Who doesn't like it when a heroine kicks some major baddie butt?
Wren is a Retriever. If someone has something stolen and wants it back, she's your go-to girl. Her partner Sergei handles the business side. Wren is the Talent of the partnership, handling Current in order to get the job done. Usually, a Talent of her caliber is governed by the Council. Wren operates outside of Council boundaries as a Lonejack, one of many freelance magicians in the city. She is also a friend to the Fatae, the supernatural beings who live in the city. As a side-effect of her Current-use, she shorts out the fuses in her apartment on a regular basis, can't use cell phones, and can only use dial-up for her internet connection.
In Staying Dead, Wren is asked to retrieve the cornerstone of a building that includes protective spells. She has to get information through her unusual sources: a four foot tall demon with white fur and red eyes that looks like a miniature polar bear, and a wizzart, a Talent user who has taken in too much Current and has gone insane as a side effect. She ends up encountering a ghost in a deadly situation.
In Curse the Dark, her task is to retrieve a particularly nasty parchment that makes anyone who reads it disappear. It has been stolen from the House of Holding, a building where no magic can be worked that is guarded by monks. Wren and Sergei track the parchment across Italy and back to the United States where they discover it has ended up in their own city. Meanwhile, the Council, the Lonejacks, and the Fatae are at odds. Fatae are being beaten by a hate group, and lives are at stake.
I have to say that I was not a fan of Gilman's writing at first. In Staying Dead, she does a poor job of explaining her version of magic, and doesn't do a very good job of setting up the mythos of her novels. I was totally confused about what she was talking about for the first ten or fifteen pages. The writing was unclear and not set out in a logical way. As I kept reading, the writing got better, and I was hooked by the end of the first book. It is very clear that Gilman has set these books up as a series. There are quite a few events in the novels that have no resolution and even seem out of place at times.
I really enjoyed both books, and I would highly recommend them. Gilman's novels are plot-driven as opposed to being character-driven, and I don't read enough of that type of book in the paranormal romance genre. I think that I would totally not be able to be a Talent in Wren's world--I couldn't give up my electronic gizmos! Be prepared to be confused at the beginning of the first book. It's worth it to muddle through to the magicky goodness on the other side.
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