Sep 3 2008
Dear Ms. Kittredge,
When I read your debut novel, Night Life, I’m afraid I found myself among that group of readers who considered your heroine Luna Wilder abrasive, obnoxious, and borderline stupid. But even so, the Nocturne City setting stuck with me and while I felt that I might not be a perfect reader-writer match in terms of the types of characters portrayed, I thought your plotting was strong and sound. Both of these were enough to make me willing to give your series another chance.
It’s been three months since the events of Night Life. Since then Luna’s been on extended medical leave and she’s only just now returning to her job as a police detective. It’s not an easy transition. Newspapers have outed her as a werewolf. She has a new female boss who remains unimpressed with Luna’s headstrong grandstanding. And even better, she has a new partner who could pass for a Barbie doll.
Luna’s personal life is no better. Her cousin Sunny has left and moved back in with their grandmother who hates Luna. Her last boyfriend, werewolf pack leader Dmitri returned to Russia after suffering a demon bite in Night Life. As a result, the werewolf pack elders have forbidden him from contacting Luna because they hold her at fault. To replace him, Luna’s gotten herself a rebound boyfriend, a wannabe rockstar who not only writes atrocious songs in her honor but is disturbingly clingy to boot.
Matters are made worse by Luna’s first case back. What started out as a routine dead body found on a sidewalk soon leads to an intergenerational family feud between two powerful witch families, both of which happen to be on opposing sides — the blood witches and the caster witches. That’s bad enough but when the caster witch family involved is rich, powerful, and influential, we end up with a situation that could take down the entire city with it.
I’m not sure if I’m just in a better mood or I’ve simply gotten used to Luna, but I found her less abrasive in this book. Losing Sunny and Dmitri seemed to have forced her to grow and mature a little. She’s certainly not Little Miss Suzy Sunshine by any stretch of the imagination, but there are definitely fewer of those interpersonal interactions that made me question Luna’s competence as a detective and person.
The plotting remains as strong as it did in the first book, with the added bonus that I did not guess the culprit until well into the book. That’s definitely an improvement over identifying him the moment he steps on the page. Perhaps other readers figured it out earlier than I did, but I found the book more enjoyable not knowing who the true antagonist was right away.
I admit I missed Sunny’s presence. One of the things I like about the Nocturne City series is that Luna has family that is both alive and present. The fact that they’re both female was only an added bonus, given the ongoing question as to why urban fantasy heroines tend to have male-dominated peers and very few female acquaintances. It’s true that Sunny and their grandmother do make appearances, but without Sunny’s immediate presence in Luna’s life, it’s obvious how unbalanced she really is. I realize that was probably a deliberate choice since it forces Luna to reevaluate her life and the choices she makes, but I missed her all the same.
Along those lines, I did enjoy Luna’s interactions with her new partner, Shelby. While Shelby’s behavior during investigations made me wonder how she could have become a cop, she was a good foil for Luna in many ways. And later in the novel, it appears there’s a detail about Shelby’s identity that explains exactly why she was so green in the field.
I would have liked to see more into the conflict between the blood and caster witches. Not necessarily just the O’Hallorans and Blackburns, who are like the magical clan equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys, but in general. We’ve had prior exposure to caster witches courtesy of Sunny and Luna’s grandmother, so readers get a nice compare and contrast between them and the O’Hallorans. But when it comes ot the Blackburns, we don’t have much to go on. I did like the fact that you touched on the greyness that exists in what people traditionally consider black and white, good and evil. I find just as funny as Luna that the “evil” Blackburns possessed such a dangerous artifact for centuries to no ill effect but the moment the O’Hallorans get their hands on it, all hell breaks loose. It goes to show power can corrupt, even if you’re a “good” guy.
The climactic battle between Luna and the antagonist might have been a little over the top for me. I admit the calling out of spells in Latin reminded me too much of Harry Potter. I know J.K. Rowling does not have the market cornered on Latin magical incantations, but I’m afraid that association is burned into my brain and it’s a hard one to shake loose. But otherwise, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. B-