Dark Currents: Agent of Hel
Jacqueline Carey is one of the undisputed masters of epic fantasy. Her Kushiel books are rich in detail and are written in a lush and sensual style that entrances readers from the first word. So, how does she do when she turns her pen to urban fantasy? Pretty darn well! Dark Currents introduces a new heroine with ties to both human and supernatural communities.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload; not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.
To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.
But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.”
With so many urban fantasies taking place in large cities, it’s refreshing to see one that’s set in a small town. For one thing, it allows for more of a sense of community among the main characters and the town at large. For another, it keeps the scale of the story smaller and more contained. In the case of this novel, where the supernatural world exists openly alongside the human one, it keeps the non-humans from fading too much into the background—it almost forces them to interact, which is the source of much of the tension.
The conflict between human and supernatural authorities is also interesting. Daisy has authority among non-humans, but her ability to enforce it in the human legal system is limited. There are a few situations where Daisy is expected to help, and yet the people that she’s working with hamper her ability to do so. I’m willing to bet that if this kind of situation ever became real, that’s exactly what would happen.
I appreciate that Carey chose some uncommon supernatural beings to focus on, even though there is the almost-obligatory werewolf: there are ghouls, who feed on strong emotion and can become obsessed with a particular person; there are mermaids, who are most definitely not as sweet as Disney’s Ariel; and there is Hel, the Norse goddess who personifies both beauty and ugliness. I never felt that this book was a run-of-the-mill tale that relied heavily on vampires and sexual tension to sell the story. Daisy is very much her own woman, and though I won’t say that there’s no lust running around this book, it’s not pushed to the forefront.
Most of all, this book is both fun and quirky. There are small-town politics and rivalries that will make readers roll their eyes and think of people in their own lives that are similar. Daisy’s mother is a typical overprotective mom, which leads people to tell Daisy to call her whenever something odd happens. I actually like these characters—they’re the kind of people that I’d love to take to lunch and hang out with. They seem more accessible than most characters I read about.
I’m glad that Carey decided to try her hand at urban fantasy, because she did a wonderful job. Dark Currents has ano-nonsense heroine, a neat small-town setting, and a plot that delivers plenty of action and fun. It’s quite different from her previous fare, but I like it just as much.
Also by this author: Banewrecker, Godslayer, Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Justice, Kushiel’s Mercy, Kushiel’s Scion, Santa Olivia
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on December 17, 2012.