If I saw them in a bookstore, I would have passed right over M.L.N. Hanover’s Black Sun’s Daughter books. They look like the cheesiest sort of urban fantasy—all the covers have a midriff-baring, tattooed, leather-sports-bra-wearing woman on them—and they’re clearly marketed as the kind of books where people go around banging vampires.
But it turns out that Hanover is actually a pen name for Daniel Abraham, and I’ve loved everything he’s written, so I figured I’d give them a chance. I wasn’t super-optimistic, and figured this might just not be my kind of book, but what the hell, dude’s earned at least a look-see, right?
Well, so, it turns out that even if this isn’t particularly my preferred genre, these books are excellent. I plowed through the five book series in a handful of days, and would have been happy to keep reading if there were more of them.
Structurally, they have the episodic nature that seems common to urban fantasy—there’s a case/monster of the week in each book—but with a strong overarching plot here. Since this is a series that’s done in five books (as opposed to the 25 or so Anita Blake books or the 15+ Harry Dresden books), the plot feels a lot tighter and less ad hoc than in those longer, ongoing series.
That tight plotting, combined with the other attractions of the genre—the found family element is pretty much straight text here rather than subtext, and there’s plenty of world-building discovery and competence porn—makes this compellingly readable. This is one of those books where I’d actively read pages while walking across a parking lot or hallway, and pretty much blew off any activity I could ignore in favor of reading.
It was actually disappointing that the series was only five books, because while the story does wind up its big questions and feels finished enough, there are enough sequel hooks to support more entries in the series. Apparently sales have been disappointing, though, so presumably those won’t be coming anytime soon. This would bother me a lot more if it weren’t that I love all of Abraham’s other work maybe even more than this, so am fine with him writing other things even though I would like more of this thing.
Anyway, highly recommended. It’s not doing anything startingly original with the genre (Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series is probably more distinctive), but the execution is just top-notch, and it’s hard to imagine anyone liking the urban fantasy genre but not liking this series.