Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey

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Dark Currents

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey

From Amazon.com’s product description:

Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy novels, presents an all-new world featuring a woman caught between the normal and paranormal worlds, while enforcing order in both. Introducing Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hell-spawn…

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.

OK, what did I think of it?

It’s not as dark as I expected from Jacqueline Carey, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed the book as it is. The above plot summary calls Daisy ‘Hel’s enforcer’, which I don’t think is accurate – she’s more of a liaison, although in this book Hel makes it clear that her duties go beyond diplomacy.

Pemkowet is an interesting invention: in Daisy’s world, some towns have a magical element, and others do not. So Pemkowet has a magical tourist trade, of visitors coming from more mundane towns eager to see a glimpse of the eldritch. However, the magical community is not all about rainbows and unicorns – most if its denizens are dangerous in some way – and careless tourists can get hurt, or killed. You also have the prejudice of the mundane against the eldritch – many of the inhabitants of the neighbouring (non-magical) town, Appeldoorn, want Pemkowet’s magical element destroyed.

Daisy herself is an attractive protagonist; we are not told for how long she has been Hel’s liaison with the mortal world, but one gets the impression it either isn’t very long, or it hasn’t been very eventful so far. This is Daisy’s first big problem, it seems, and we see her getting to grips with it. She’s young enough to be excited by the prospect of working on ‘real police work’, rather than filing, but is smart enough to know that this isn’t a game. Her interaction with Cody the werewolf is well-written; unlike many urban fantasy heroines, she doesn’t completely make a fool of herself, and towards the end of the book we see the schoolgirl crush being replaced by an adult friendship. There are also a couple of other handsome males introduced, so I think we can expect Carey to do something with them in future books.

The secondary characters are also well written: her best friend, Jen, who is non-magical and therefore Daisy has to decide whether or not to keep the secrets of the magical community from her. The police chief, who is non-magical but committed to doing the best he can for all the residents of his town – a relief to see a police chief who is committed to his job, not to the furtherance of his political career.

Some of the urban fantasy stereotypes are there (one can see the love triangle, or polygon of one’s choice, forming up already) but Carey has stayed away from others. It’s nice to have a heroine who isn’t a badass lone-wolf type with the social skills of a bull in a china shop. Daisy wasn’t born in Pemkowet, but she was conceived and grew up there, and she’s well-known in the town. Her mother lives in the town, and she has friends (and schoolgirl-enemies) there. This means that she comes across as a lot more of an ordinary (for hell-spawn) young woman than some kind of superhero.

The plot is a good one; it moves along at a brisk pace, and when the mystery is solved events are revealed that have a certain horrible plausibility. The nature of what happened makes me wonder where Carey is going to take this series, since a number of issues were brought up that would be very interesting indeed if developed. It wasn’t as deep and multifaceted as some of Carey’s other writing, but then, this book is much shorter. I’m hoping that the complexity will build through the series, and there are signs that this is is a possibility.

In conclusion, therefore, Jacqueline Carey has proved that she most certainly can write urban fantasy. I shall be looking out for the next book in the series.

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