Showing posts with label Lyn Benedict. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lyn Benedict. Show all posts

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Openers Revisited ~ PART TWO...

There’s a lot of history behind this opening scene.  It began in the first book in P. D. James's Cordelia Gray series, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  In the opening of that book Cordelia Gray worked as an assistant–turned intern–to a private investigator.  Yet, stepping into his office in that book's opening, she had the misfortune of finding her boss's body.  His death was a suicide, and one with a good-bye letter passing his business on to Cordelia.  
Already an awkward character stuck in a financial crunch; Cordelia wavered on his final request.  Eventually she made the decision to take over his business–just as he trained and legally prepared her.  Fast-forward to this book where Cordelia is completely on her own, and still a little uncomfortable with her new career path.  
So I love the self-conscious reflections seen through a nameplate.  Among other slices of imagery, of course.  To me this opening continues to make Cordelia's character human.  She's uncertain.  Juggling her confidence as an investigator.  However, she recognizes she's already on the path and have to step up to the plate.
Pun intended.
Sadly, there was never a book three.  A TV series featuring a pregnant Cordelia Gray shut James's vigor for writing this character down.

I’m going to keep this extremely simply by saying: if you haven’t read Butler’s Patternist series, then I FEEL for you!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The OSI Gone Bye-Bye-Bye

I forgot to mention Jes Battis back when I made posts related to urban fantasy authors whose series I've loved but are no longer in operation. So besides the lovely Lynn Benedict, Battis is definitely up there. Battis wrote a five-book series surrounding a young Canadian Occult Special Investigator named Tess Corday. I know. I know. First, you'd like to know exactly what an Occult Special Investigator or OSI is. Well, it’s an investigative unit that specializes in the occult, or occult rattled cases. It’s like an alternative division to the whole CSI mechanic and how it pertains to law enforcement. Therefore, Tess’s job usually has her castigated by unruly vampires, necromancers and other nightly fiends. Well, opposed to murderous humans and the occasional blue-collar criminal. So it‘s all about the world she lives in, and one that Battis painted quite nicely (until it sort of fell apart in the last book).

Despite his set-up, Battis's protagonist is very much human. Although later her father’s genetic truths come to light. This becomes an overarching plot, unfolding next to the case-by-case format spanning the five books. And while all that is tugging and momentum-filled, Tess isn't alone in her journey.  There are secondary characters with their own stories to tell. Her best friend, Derrick, is gay and telepathic.  He also works for the OSI. Additionally, his boyfriend is a hearing-impaired profiler of sorts. Nonetheless, the two (gradually more) share an apartment with a teenage pseudo-vampire named Mia.  Mia bears a striking personality resemblance to Buffy’s sister Dawn, although Mia isn't nowhere near as insufferable.  Tess and her best friend become Mia's guardians after the first book, Night Child. I was always confused about Mia's circumstances, but there’s something about her breaking out into vampire mode and ruling the underworld one day. It’s hazy, but somewhat of the gist of her story. Nonetheless, while these three jump-start the series, there is also Tess’s boyfriend and local chief necromancer, Lucian Agrado.

So the cast is wide and diverse, and generally different. Especially with the tie of the hearing-impaired character. You don't see these characters too often in urban fantasy, or I can't recall a time. Furthermore, while Lucian gave great body and sex appeal, he wasn't like other male characters in this genre where their bod and sex appeal becomes the focal point of the protagonist’s obsession. No. Lucian very much kept Tess in check, and her likewise. Together the cast got into plenty of trouble. Each with a sort of ability and charm that compliments the next, leading to the resolutions behind many of Tess’s cases. 

I truly miss and enjoy the series, even though the last book was just this long, morbid monologue/meditation provided by Tess regarding her values and that of her father. Though sadly, I think the series really started to pick up with the third book (that’s when I solidified my love of Battis work), but didn't get the chance to really shine.

All that aside, you can tell Battis watches a lot of Buffy, my personal favorite TV show.  So if you like Buffy, you may love this charming and humorous treat.  Interesting investigations, a slice of love, friendship-driven, and mysterious family secrets abound.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Still Mad Shadows Inquiries Series Ended

As I take my time reading Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five, I decided now may be a good time to talk about two urban fantasy series that I’m still (after two years) upset have ended.  These were really short-lived series, I have to say.  Both unfairly, but fairly, extinguished before they could truly rise.  I say fairly in concerns to publishers, profits and popularity.  But unfair, nonetheless.  Personally, I found the two series were incredible, different, and refreshing from mainstays and overrated authors in the same genre.  I'm so fussy and picky about this genre, and have to admit that many veteran authors in urban fantasy have overstayed their welcome like foreign houseguest walking over tatami mats with their Nikes on.  And it sucks when new authors come in every year employing some of the failed mechanics of the veterans.  But like I said, these two authors/series were different.

The first series I want to write about is my favorite out of the two, and that’s Lyn Benedict’s Shadows Inquiries series.  The series ran from 2009-2012, spanning a meager four books before Ace cancelled it.  I'm not really clear what caused the cancellation, other than the normal suspicions of poor marketing mixed with poorer sales (underrated as ever).  However, I think that it all boiled down to the series star, Sylvie Lightner, and the astonishing realization that… well… readers didn't like her.  I’ve read several reviews and discussion board conversations where readers expressed how unlikable she was.  I tried to understand where this dislike was coming from.  However, in the end, I was still left wondering.  Was it because she wasn't your traditional kick-ass female lead?  Or was it because she did kick ass, and didn't whine about it?  Is it because she didn't spend the majority of her time trying to get in bed with vampires and werewolves (which weren't present in the series; Benedict went above and beyond those tired creatures)?  In turn, she actually worked her butt off solving cases without distraction.  Needless to say, I was surprised by the response readers took over Sylvia.  

I absolutely loved and adored Sylvie–mainly because she was the reversal to many of her "peers" in the genre.  She, truly, revived my faith in the urban fantasy genre.  She was hard, worthy of deconstruction, inventive, stanch, and loving all in one.  And if that wasn't enough, she had a cast of family and friends that balanced her edge as a PI specializing in magic, old gods, and the occult.  So I suppose she got love where it mattered.  Nevertheless, even as I write this, I'm getting upset at how nobody [readers] seemed to get her, whereas I thought she was great and deserved at least a fifth book.  Really, I identified with her spunk and willpower.  And I may be wrong for saying this, but maybe I believed in her because I'm a guy and am hardly in need of a strong romance element to keep me interested.  Which Lyn Benedict added to her series in a cool and judiciously agreeable manner.

So, enough pedestal-talk.  My job is to encourage you to try this series before it goes out of print or existence somewhere within the sea of kick-ass urban fantasy series gone bye-bye.  Where should I start then?  How about what Shadows Inquiries series is about?

We are introduced to PI Sylvie Lightner and Benedict's fantastic world-building in the first book, Sins & Shadows.  Taking place in an alternate version of modern day Miami (as most urban fantasy series do), Sylvie is a license private investigator who specializes in cases related to the supernatural and occult.  This would include cases consisting of reviving fallen gods, and burning demons out of possession.  While all this seems like a difficult and dangerous profession for a human, the truth is that Sylvie is a descendant of Lilith (more on who that is below).  This gives Sylvie a supernatural resistant to any type of dark magic, allowing her to go places, break spells, and face monsters outside of human restraint.  Additionally, she can kill the unkillable.  And Lilith, the bearer of demons/monsters and the first wife of Adam from the Bible’s Old Testament, makes her appearance throughout each of Sylvie’s cases.  Lilith's role becomes one that urges Sylvie to put aside her human morals and follow her natural, killer instincts.  Consequently, becoming the New Lilith, an immortal being.  

That is the conundrum Sylvie faces.  She straddles the line of acting on her budding bloodlust through the persuasion of Lilith and maintaining her humanity.  And it doesn't help that government corporations, such as the Internal Surveillance and Intelligence agency (ISI), has an eye on Sylvie and her activities in relation to their own agenda of stopping supernatural corruption among humans.  Therefore, the question remains: is Sylvie a threat to humans like the monsters she hunts?  As for the Magicus Mundi, an enigmatic place where the monsters and dark magic swim from to torment mankind; what would it take for them to stop Sylvie from killing them off?


While there are a few allies Sylvie can call on, the most reliable (or perhaps questionable) one happens to be her somewhat-lover and ISI agent, Agent Michael Demalion.  Along Sylvie’s journey comes her teenage sister, and former troublemaker, Zoe.  Sylvie’s assistant, Alex, is loyal to Sylvie at her best.  Then there are supernatural creatures, such as a Fury demon named Erinya, who kind-of-sort-of joins Sylvie in her own form of destructive loyalty.

I really want to re-read this series and do a review on each book after writing all this.  Also as I write this, I'm still convinced this short-lived series is better than even Kim Harrison’s Hollows series as of late.  A very unpopular opinion, I'm certain.  But hey... it is what it is.  Also, Sylvie can beat the hell out of Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake and her harem of emasculated beasties.  That's something I would pay good money to see.  

In any regard, maybe it’s for personal reasons, but I really believe Lyn Benedict’s Shadow Inquires series is superior to both urban fantasy veterans [Harrison and Hamilton] for a variety of reasons.  Even within its life span of four books, I should add.  Benedict gave Sylvie a diverse set of case-related troubles, and less soap opera and relationship melodrama.  In the first book she was retained to help a gay god retrieve his missing boyfriend–who by the way was in a really, really cool magical oubliette.  In the second book Sylvie took on a case of magic-induced burglaries sweeping Miami, which led her into crazed necromancers and ghosts.  Book three Sylvie runs into old sorcerers and Aztec gods gone mad.  And the fourth and final book dealt with government cover-ups and the supernatural world gone ballistic on humans.  There was always, always something new and fresh to explore.  Not just the repeated drudgery of vampire politics and weaning over the washboard abs of villains.  And if all else fails, Benedict did a damn good job of fleshing out her stories from start to finish.

BOOM!  I said it!  

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