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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Staying Dead

**** Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman. Contemporary fantasy.

I bought this one on recommendations... the only problem is, I don't remember whose. If it was you, thank you!

Wren is a retriever. That is, she gets back things that have been lost or stolen. For a fee. And she uses magic to do so. Sergei is her mentor/agent/friend.

In Staying Dead, Wren is hired to retrieve a cornerstone that had magically provided protection for a company for decades. It seems a straightforward, if difficult, task to find the thief and steal back the cornerstone.

But if it were straightforward, there'd be no point in writing a book about it, would there? Wren finds herself in more danger than she expected, and from unlikely sources. She also finds herself being forced to question things she'd taken for granted, particularly her relationship with Sergei.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sleuthing aspects of Staying Dead, as well as the twists and turns and the revelations about the motivations behind the various events. I'm rarely a fan of mentor/protegee romantic entanglements, but this one didn't bother me too terribly much, and I found Sergei's dilemma interesting and believable.

My only problem is that, despite the reviews comparing Staying Dead to Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, and Laurell K. Hamilton, it didn't feel at all similar. It had the same sort of feel as Nancy Baker's The Night Inside (#25), which felt as if it had been written by someone who'd never read a vampire novel before. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. It provides a freshness, but it's also like reinventing the wheel.

I'm not explaining well at all, I know. It sounds like I'm saying that most contemporary fantasy sounds alike, but that's not the case. It's just that with the amount out there, it's a reasonable assumption that readers are used to being thrust into a different world, so it's not necessary to constantly remind them. In addition, things that are pretty standard in other contemporary fantasy books, like the magical governing body, were presented as startlingly unusual. Maybe that's what it was, more than feeling like the author hadn't read contemporary fantasy before--it felt like the reader was presumed not to have read contemporary fantasy before. Which could possibly be due to the Luna imprint. I don't know.

Regardless, I will be looking for the next book in the series--hopefully since we've already been introduced to the world, the problems I had with it will be eliminated.


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Nice review. And I do understand what you mean about the author overexplaining the "other" world the reader is thrust into.

You've intrigued me with your comments. I'm going to have to check this book out. Thanks for the heads up.
The amount of description involved in worldbuilding is a tricky thing, and a lot of it, I think, depends on readers' tastes. I personally prefer less description, but I know a lot of readers who prefer much more.

I look forward to seeing what you think about it.
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