REVIEW: Coils by Barbara Ann Wright
Cressida loves Greek mythology, tales of gods and monsters, but she knows they aren’t real no matter how awesome it would be to meet the beautiful women of myth. When her aunt June disappears, Cressida realizes the other members of her family aren’t so rational. June’s notes point to a possible entrance to the fabled Underworld before they cut off completely.
Following June’s footsteps leads Cressida into a world she knew only as legend, a place of marvels and danger, where the living are highly prized by the dead. Desperate, Cressida turns to Medusa, a demigoddess who’s been maligned by myth, but everything in the Underworld comes with a price. Medusa is more than willing to help find June, and all it will cost Cressida is one little murder.
Dear Ms. Wright,
Showing what a shallow person I am, it was the cover that caught my eye and made me say “Self, you must check out the blurb for this one and hope you want to read it because damn, that cover is awesome.” Okay, Greek myths, gods and monsters and a trip to the Underworld. Sign me up.
This one springs straight into action with Cressida worrying about her missing aunt then hot on the trail after where June might have gone. That is if you believe in the Eleusianian Mysteries which apparently Aunt June did and not just in a scholarly, historical sense. No, the awkwardly filmed smart phone video Cressida watches, taken by the last hierophant June had tracked down (the power of the Internet!), shows June all too clearly ready to totally buy into the ancient myths and attempt to learn the truth about them and, Cressida presumes, to rewrite them more favorably for women.
But while June is a true believer, Cressida is a “looking for the zipper” skeptic who knows she has to play the part and reenact the ritual mysteries if she’s to find out what happened to her missing relative. I buy into this because of Nero, the hierophant’s, barely concealed amazement that his fumbling efforts worked in the first place and the fact that Cressida wears a “are you kidding me?” face. Then after some mind altering drugs and hot footing it to evade Cerebus, Cressida is in the Underworld – the freaking Underworld! – though she’s bemused and disappointed to find it looks more like derelict Cleveland. Soon she’s the object of intense interest from those who could use a live person for their own purposes.
So who can she trust? The ambrosia racket boys or a “blowing Cressida’s mind” beautiful Medusa? It’s quickly obvious that everyone wants something and honesty is um – flexible – in the Underworld. Promises, promises to help her get her Aunt back but will these undead come through or just use Cressida and then abandon her?
The humor has a slight sarcastic bent and the Underworld is made approachable by some degree of modernization from hints and information drifting down to them. Thank god for scholars who study myths and the people who still read or believe in them because that is what gives substance to most of the dead there – except for the lucky bastards in the Elysian Fields or the Blessed Isles. Cressida is tripping because FFS the Greek gods are real here, the ancient heroes and subjects of stories and myths are here! if dead. The gods might toy with humans as they would with playthings BUT they also need human thought and belief to maintain their power. Cressida knows a lot about Greek mythology which proves helpful both for her and as a source of information for the reader.
What about the romance? For a long time there’s not much but there is a whole lot of angst about betrayal. Lotsa angst and feelings of betrayal and endless thinking about it. The action slows as both Medusa and Cressida think “cry in your beer” relationship thoughts and emotionally waver about “is she interested in me? She’s so hawt.” Seeing as how the relationship is at this point only a hot kiss and lots of sighing and wondering it all seems a bit high school instead of high drama.
And then – right when the story is about to buy itself another round of beer to cry in – Something Happens! Something I didn’t see coming but should have as the clues were all there. Major delighted bonus points for that. Woo-hoo what happens next is a culmination of Greek myths and everything that’s gone before in the book. It all makes sense – even the (literal) deus ex machina (and haven’t I always groused about those when used to get a plot out of a painted corner?) – serves the story and wraps things neatly up. Then the relationship gets a hefty dose of character growth and introspection that lifts it back up for me. So a good start, great Greek myth action and a late blooming romance that flowers in the end is a B for me.