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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Throne - Phil Tucker A nice departure from the canned "tough girl with a chip on her shoulder" version of urban fantasy being flogged to death by publishers. I could live a looong happy life and NEVER read another Anita Blake clone.

The story follows two women: Maya, a teenager and recent immigrant (Brazil), and Mirabel, a former model turned photographer. Each woman's life is changed when she discovers the magical world hidden right beneath/next to our own and is recruited into an ancient, recurring battle between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. One woman is to become the menacing Queen of Air and Darkness; the other, the Lady of Light and Laughter.

Mirabel, having descended into grief after a miscarriage late in her pregnancy, is vulnerable and ripe for the picking, an easy recruit into the Unseelie machinations. When she is approached by the goatlike phooka who offers the opportunity to wreck revenge on Kubu, the dark incarnation of miscarried pregnancies, she's eager for vengeance, even if it means becoming an agent of death and cruelty.

Maya is living a life typical of many immigrants: she has two jobs, one as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant, where she is sexually harassed by the staff; another in a garment factory, stitching designer belts together. One night, after a particularly bad day at work, she encounter a beautiful and mysterious man as she leaves the restaurant. The man kisses her and leaves her unable to speak to anyone in the "real" world. Soon after, she is approached by a talking fox, Guillaume, who takes her into the world of the Seelie and Unseelie. Maya, it seems, is to be the Seelie's Lady of Light and Laughter.

Of course, this is the fey, who can't give a straight answer if their lives depended on it. And Maya and Mirabel are left to fumble their way into their roles, "Whee, look Ma, no script!" Mirabel is at the distinct advantage, as Evil often is, in that she's given infinite power to kill and destroy and stripped of a conscience. Poor Maya...not so much. It's sort of like if The Avengers were ordinary humans with slingshots and Loki...was still Loki, the motherf*cking God of Mischief.

Aided and abetted by a kind-of street hustler named Kevin, Maya gamely attempts to save New York from a whole bunch of things that go bump in the night. Because, of course, it's New York. As I noted in the review of The Avengers on my blog, whether it's aliens or ultimate evil, New York is always in jeopardy.

The strength of this novel is its descriptive passages. I'm a sucker for great metaphors/similes, lovely evocative turns of phrase that paint a vivid picture of the world. Throne is chuck full of great descriptive writing. This is, to some extent, the novel's weakness, as it spends too much time on transitions, lavishing detail on scenes and scenery that should have been deleted in revision.

Maya is the most interesting of the two women. This is because Mirabel is a being of grief and overriding despair. It consumes her, drives her mad, and renders her rather one-dimensional. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for a character arc.

Maya, however, is just a teenage kid struggling with the pressures of surviving in a strange country and now, coping with her role as avatar of good in the Seelie/Unseelie's battle. I guess I'm saying she's the most approachable and relatable. My main quibble with Maya is that her dialogue doesn't sound like that of a non-native speaker. I grew up in a Texas border town (myself Hispanic), and even immigrants who picked up English quickly, still retained speech patterns and syntax that identified them as non-native English speakers. Maya's speech feels off, which is weird, because, by and large the author seems to have a good ear for all things cultural.

The author, who gave me a free copy of the book*, referenced War for the Oaks as a similar novel. I disagree, largely because Emma Bull's novel is actually a gentler tale, a romance really. Throne harkens more to Charles De Lint's darker titles. Either way, Throne is in the milieu of Bull and De Lint.

A dark and edgy alternative to same-old-same-old urban fantasy.

*I don't know the author from Adam, so this is an unbiased review.