Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover (The Black Sun's Daughter #1)

Unclean Spirits - M.L.N. Hanover

In which our heroine Jayné discovers her beloved black sheep uncle has left her a fortune, and inadvertently a new family and a mantle to take up if she wishes.

 

I've had this whole series for a couple of years, but somehow packed book 1 apart from the others, and then couldn't find it! So I never read it. Situation now remedied (it was in a box of books stashed in the back of the shoes and winter coats closet in the hall. Of course it was.)

 

I'm a little non-plussed. I feel like I shouldn't like it quite as much as I did, a "your fave is problematic" kind of feel. But I can't deny the fact it grabbed me, and I polished it off really quickly. Maybe writing a review will help me figure it out.

 

Plotwise it's very standard, even pedestrian. Imagine Grimm with a much younger girl lead instead of a cop, and 'riders' being spirits that take over bodies and are responsible for pretty much all our myths from vampires to werewolves, and that's about it. Except Jayné also lands on her feet by inheriting a huge fortune, houses all over the world, and a rag-tag bunch of friends and 'co-workers' from her uncle. Oh and a mysterious unexplained set of abilities/powers.

 

It actually sounds pretty lame: a bit pedestrian, 'seen it before' and with a Mary Sue of a heroine. But it just works. Even if I didn't already have the other four books (I hope I can find *that* box now) I'd probably look at picking them up.

 

Recommended for: UF fans who like the romance in the back seat, not driving the show.

 

A very long and entirely over-analysed set of pros and cons below the cut.

Other reasons to not like it:

  • Jayné (I mean really? And how do you pronounce that Zha-NAY? It is kind of funny how EVERYONE calls her Jayne and she just rolls with it though, although she mentally notes it every. single. time.)
  • The Scooby gang, it's just a little too pat. This girl knows NOTHING about their world, yet they're handing her shotguns and teaching her magic within days.
  • "You're not muslim or jewish or some other kind of fucked up shit are you?" (Admittedly, this is coming from a character who may not be a good guy, and it's in reference to his cooking bacon for breakfast. But still, it's in like, chapter 3. Ironically, Jayné was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family which I guess falls into the "some other kind of fucked up shit" in her case at least)
  • Let's handle our anxiety by going on a 10k shopping spree. And then giving all the clothes away out of guilt for spending 10k. Most of this book you would actually be pretty hard pressed to tell this is a man writing a first person woman's perspective, but *that* gave it away big time. Shopping therapy is not really a thing, when your anxiety is over your life being in danger, your entire world view being completely wrong, you are estranged from your family and all your friends and your favourite uncle is dead.
  • On Thursday we are going to go into battle. So let's have a date on Wednesday! Again, this is.... stupid. Even though she has a reason "We might all die on Thursday, so I want to carpe some diem before then", it's still dumb. They're all staying at the same place, why did they have to go *out* on a date, if she just wanted to boink. It ends in disaster of course.
  • The cover is ridiculous. Jayné gets around in jeans and her uncle's shirts for most of the book, and it's a plot point that nobody knows about the tattoo - she's been hiding it since she was 16 for crying out loud, so clearly she doesn't get around in that kind of outfit. I know, it's peripheral to the actual book, but it annoys the crap out of me that UF heroines are always portrayed like this on covers.

 

And yet....

  • It's very well written (for UF). Daniel Abraham is no nobel prize winner, but he knows how to hit all the beats, keep the action moving right along, and how to create generally likeable characters that have a consistent voice.
  • Jayne finds out her new lover is married, and she *stops sleeping with him*. Immediately, and irrevocably, until he sorts out his divorce. I was impressed. Most UF leads are far too driven by their loins to pull that off.
  • Jayné meets his ex-wife, and *she is not the enemy*. They get along great.
  • There's a love triangle, but it's the most realistic one ever. Jayné is really into one guy, and he's into her, things are moving along. Yet despite the fact this is being told from Jayné's perspective and it's *blindingly obvious* that one of the other guys on the crew is really into her, and really disappointed that she already likes someone, Jayné never figures it out herself. It's actually kind of hilarious. She keeps thinking "that was weird, I must ask him what he meant" and never gets around to it, while it's pretty darn obvious what he meant anyway, she's just not seeing it.
  • There's some interesting takes on religion. Despite the recent trope of making everyone white, western, and Christian into the actual bad guys, that's not the case (and I'm not a Christian, for the record, I was raised catholic but fell out of that many many years ago - I just find this a very lazy and reactionary trope). One character is an ex Jesuit priest, and another is a buddhist, and they get along great. Jayné was raised by a lunatic Christian quiverfull kind of family, but despite leaving them and the church, she is very clear that she retains the morality, and doesn't disbelieve herself. You really can't avoid religion in urban fantasy, for a host of reasons, so it's interesting and refreshing to me to see it treated as something that's along for the ride, and that none of the major characters are fanatic anythings, just folks in the know trying to do what they feel is the right thing.
(show spoiler)