Sunday, May 09, 2004

Review: "Seduced by Moonlight" by Laurell K. Hamilton

In "Seduced by Moonlight" ($23.95, Ballantine), Laurell K. Hamilton returns to the tale of Merry Gentry, also known as Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court of the sidhe (pronounced shee for those not up on their Irish folklore.)

Merry, who is half human and therefore mortal, lives in Los Angeles, exiled from her immortal fey relatives by necessity. She has many enemies at court, and the violence of their court isn't safe for someone who can actually die from her wounds.

But she's been given the chance to return home not as a tainted half-human, but as queen of the Unseelie Court. In order to do that, she has to give her people a rare gift - a child. Her aunt, Queen Andais, has decreed that if she can conceive a child before her cruel cousin Cel, she will inherit the throne.

Hamilton's first novel in the Merry Gentry series, "A Kiss of Shadows," was absolutely incredible, a dark and moody work with just a bit of sensuality. The third book, "Seduced by Moonlight," is not her strongest work.

I have to agree with much of the criticism I've seen from other fans. This book is long on sex and a little short on plot development - at least in the early going. In fact, in the first 150 pages or so, it seems at times that the story is just an excuse to get Merry from one sex scene to the next.

That said, the book still isn't too bad. It hits its stride about midway through and gets back to the story at hand. It also features some very interesting developments, both in Merry's character and in the story.

Hamilton's writing is as strong as ever, rife with new wonders and interesting ideas. Characterization has always been a strong point for Hamilton, and her characters in this series truly shine. You won't find an odder cast this side of a Terry Pratchett novel, but you'll also never question for a second that her characters are truly real despite their odd appearances, mannerisms and magic. It's the characters that keep you interested.

Though "Seduced by Moonlight" doesn't advance Merry's story as much as I would like, it still lays some intriguing groundwork for future installments. Here's hoping that Hamilton gets her focus back on the story and doesn't let Merry's story devolve into a string of meaningless sex scenes. She's too good a writer and this is too good a story for that.

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