Monday, September 2, 2013

Urban Fantasy Review: Affairs of the Dead

Affairs of the Dead
A.J. Locke

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Etopia Press
Date of Publication: April 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-939194-91-6

Book Description:

Help ghosts, stop a thief, and try not to die…

Necromancer Selene Vanream helps ghosts settle their affairs so they can move on. But when breaking the rules gets her in trouble, she’s bumped down to tracking ghosts trying to avoid the afterlife. Ghosts like Ethan Lance, who claims he was kicked out of his body when someone else jumped in. Which might be plausible—if such a thing were possible. And if Micah, Selene’s partner, didn’t pull her into an investigation of brutal murders that lead directly back to Ethan.

But when the whole mess puts Selene’s life in danger, she suddenly has very personal reasons to get Ethan’s body back. Between her uncomfortable relationship with Micah, and problems with her boss, Selene learns just how much trouble it can be when you don’t follow the rules

My review: 
- Affairs of the Dead has a more old-school paranormal feel than many other UF books. Most of the characters are necromancers or ghosts and the plot focuses on a supernatural murder mystery. This is a world where the general population are aware of these magical people, and the title of the book actually refers to the company where the MC works, helping ghosts take care of whatever unfinished business keeps them tied to the mortal world. Talk about a crazy job, and a lot of fun to read about.

Characters - Selene Vanream is a fantastic and complicated heroine with a distinct voice. She makes mistakes in her personal and professional life, manages to overcome the problems that are the result, yet she never dwells on her sometimes poor decisions or becomes overly apologetic about it. She's imperfect and it makes her refreshingly real, although her personal drama threatened to overtake the crime-solving plot at times. The other stand-out character for me was the spirit Ethan, who accidentally becomes attached to Selene's aura after getting bumped out of his living body. That situation is the core of the story's mystery, and is also extremely difficult and dangerous for both of them. It's a neat twist and made for a unique emotional journey for the characters.

Pros & Cons - There were so many things I loved - creative world-building, interesting characters (and always a plus to see several POC in leading roles), and a good balance of action, mystery and romance. To be honest, I would have liked to have less time spent on the developing romance between Selene and her co-worker and more on the unique relationship between Selene and the almost-ghost Ethan. But that's just me, I'm not the biggest romance fan, so it's just my preference (and there are some juicy scenes for those of you who are).

Fresh Factor - The author has invented a form of necromantic magic based on runes, which I haven't seen before and thought it was really cool. I also enjoyed the new spin on an "underground" New York City with a seedy magical side.

Overall - A very good read, especially for fans of straight paranormal stories with a bit of mystery. The novel portrayed a narrow slice of what is probably a fascinating larger world, so I hope more stories are forthcoming that will explore that further. Can I also mention how much I lurv that cover?! Bottom line, if you love a smart paranormal mystery with a hint of romance and a heroine with moxie, this one's for you. 

Short Excerpt:

I was in a strip club trying to help a ghost get laid, which was challenging, but not impossible. It was just extremely taxing on the necromancer extraordinaire (me) who had to channel energy into the ghost to make her corporeal enough to entice one of the stripper boys. Technically what I was doing was illegal, but it was my job to help ghosts settle their affairs so they could move on to eternally ever after, and Julia’s unfinished business was that she’d died a virgin. I’d made it as easy as I could for her by starting at a strip club; if she couldn’t get some here, I wasn’t sure how much lower I could scrape the barrel.

Julia’s prolonged virginity was an enigma to me, even though she told me that she’d been waiting for her soul mate. I just didn’t understand why that meant she couldn’t hit up a bar, get drunk, and have a fun, regret-filled weekend that included the walk of shame. At least she’d have been in better shape once soul mate came around.

 “What do you think about him?” I asked, pointing to one of the three oiled up men who were gyrating for the benefit of all the screaming women. He had blond hair and green eyes, and wasn’t overly muscular. Julia looked at him then quickly looked away. I took that as a sign of approval.

“I think this was a bad idea,” she stammered.

“This was a fantastic idea,” I said. “And it will work, don’t worry.”

“No, I mean, I don’t think I can do this. I waited my whole life for my soul mate and now you want me to just—” she stole another quick look at the stripper, “I don’t think I can do this with some random…stripper man. It’s so indecent.”

I rolled my eyes. “Julia, you’re a ghost; you no longer have the option of being discerning. And if you don’t wrap up what’s keeping you around, you run the risk of turning into a monster. Then it’s an even bigger pain in the ass to get rid of you. So let’s call our efforts here at Bump and Moan choice A, and murderous monster choice B. Which choice would you like to make?”

“A,” Julia said, but she didn’t sound happy about it. I smiled, and grabbed a couple drinks off the tray of a passing waitress. I set them down in front of Julia.

“Drink,” I said. “This will help.”

“I’m a ghost,” she said. “I thought I was unable to eat or drink.”

 “You can feel the effects of the alcohol since you’ll be working off my energy, so drink up. I’ve pegged you as a light weight so I think two drinks will be enough.”

“But how is this supposed to help?” she asked, frowning.

“Because its job is to help,” I said.

About the Author:

A.J. Locke is an author and artist, originally from Trinidad, now residing in New York City. Affairs of the Dead is her debut novel, and other than writing she enjoys reading, drawing, painting, graphic design, and watching too much television.




widdershins said...

Sounds like a fun read ... I agree with you about the cover. It's a nice change-up.

Blogger said...

I have just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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