Laurell K Hamilton is the undeniable queen of this genre, but it took her about eight Anita Blake books to approach the quality of writing that Caitlin has given us in her first outing. Eventually Laurell improved her skills but morphed her books into soft-core porn with vampires. Ugh.If you’re like me and enjoy a bad ass heroine in a gritty urban fantasy setting then Night Life is something you should pick up.
There’s only one problem: the cover. If you pay attention to the cover you will think this another cheesy romance novel with werewolves. The only redeeming thing about the cover is that Caitlin probably had little control over it, and, if you didn’t know already, the author rarely writes the descriptive text on the book cover. The perceived cheese is slightly due to Caitlin’s way of naming things: our werewolf heroine is named “Luna”, and the story takes place in “Nocturne City”. Normally, I’m totally fine with a little tongue-in-cheek naming, but when combined with the descriptive text which describes Luna as a “tough-as-nails police officer” and notes that “…when she investigates prime suspect Dmitri Sandovsky, she can’t resist his wolfish charms.” it just screams cheesy crap to me. The final red flag is the girl on the cover who looks like a seventeen year old goth wannabe.
Getting back to the book itself: the first few pages are a bit rough, especially “I could smell her blood because I’m a werewolf.” I feel for Caitlin, because trying to convey that your protagonist is anything other than normal human within the first couple pages is an unenviable task, but still… Fortunately the writing improves quickly, and while it didn’t immediately suck me in, it wasn’t bad, and it showed enough promise to keep me reading, and reading, and reading until 2 AM Monday morning when I forced myself to put it down and get some sleep before work.
The book was so enjoyable, and I was so thoroughly caught up in it, that when I was unable to find it the next morning, or after days of searching, I was prepared to go out and re-buy it just to finish it. Luna is a well written, and multifaceted character you enjoy reading about. Her shortcomings are, thankfully, not the emotional equivalent of the movie women who can’t run twelve feet without tripping over nothing, but realistic and believable human complexities. The relationship that builds between her Dmitri is very quick, but Caitlin manages to make it not feel like an excuse to write multiple sex scenes (there’s only one), or one of those totally contrived “I hate you. Take me now.” relationships. While there’s nothing terribly surprising about it, it’s relatively realistic, layered, and well done. Just like all the other denizens of Luna’s life, which leaves Caitlin with a great foundation for future books to build on.
It’s not perfect, and you’ll probably find a few nits to pick but nothing notably bad. I do prefer the way werewolf packs, and the transmission of werwolfism were handled by authors like Patricia Briggs, Kelly Armstrong, or even Ms. Hamilton”). I’m not thrilled with what eventually happens to the members of Dmitri’s pack, or how easily it seems to have transpired. And, there are a few things just after the final fight that leave me going “wait, what exactly….“, but I’m still putting it down knowing I’ll buy her next book without hesitation (or looking at the cover).
I hope that her publisher pulls their heads out of their asses and tries to market her next book based on what’s inside of it instead of what they hope their target market wants to hear. Caitlin is a talented writer, whose work I happily put alongside that of authors like Patricia Briggs, Kelly Armstrong, Kat Richardson, and Kim Harrison. Hopefully these women will be able to convince publishers that Urban Fantasy readers don’t just want trashy romance novels with magical beings thrown in.
P.S. Thank you Caitlin for having the balls to use the word “cock” in the sex scene. I am so sick of members and throbbing hardnesses. Can you imagine anyone using those in real life? “Oh baby, show me your throbbing hardness.”
P.P.S Check out Kat Richardson’s review of Night Life.