Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: "Bayou Moon" by Ilona Andrews

I always feel like I'm throwing the dice when I pick up a book of paranormal fiction because there has been such a deluge of titles in recent years.  But the husband & wife writing team known as Ilona Andrews really caught my attention with On The Edge last year and I knew Bayou Moon was going to be on my 'must-read' list as soon as I saw the title; and it was every bit as good as I had hoped it would be.

"Bayou Moon" is one of those sequels that follows the story of one of the secondary characters to make an appearance in the first book. William, a shape-shifter and romantic rival of one of the main characters in "On the Edge," takes center stage in the second installment of Andrews' "The Edge" series.

The Edge is a swath of land that stands between the non-magical world, known as the Broken, and the magical world known as the Weird. Thanks to unruly magic and its history as a place of exile for fugitives from the Weird, The Edge is a particularly dangerous place--and nowhere is more hazardous than the Mire. Cerise Mar was raised in the swamp known as the Mire as part of a large clan that is land-rich but cash-poor. The Mars are known as a strong clan that will defend their land and their honor with magic and muscle as needed, so it's unexpected when Cerise's parents disappear and it appears that foul play was involved.

What Cerise doesn't know is that her parents were unwittingly drawn into the middle of an ongoing conflict between two nations in the Weird who are after control of a magical weapon that can change the balance of power. William, a man whose fate was sealed by his shape-shifting nature, is a soldier hired to look into the actions of a spy from the Weird, known as the Spider, and in the course of the investigation crosses paths with Cerise.

There are so many things to love about "Bayou Moon" that it's hard to know where to begin...

You might think that the shape-shifting nature of William's character would make "Bayou Moon" like any other work of paranormal fiction, but that would be selling the story short. William isn't the alpha of some wolf pack-- in fact there are no wolf packs in the Weird. He also isn't one of those stereotypical, brooding characters, whose main role is to look good in a pair of jeans-- though you know he looks good in them anyway. There's an honest-to-goodness back story here. Likewise Cerise doesn't fall into the clich├ęd characterization of the sarcastically hyper-sexual bad-ass. She's tough, but not irritating like so many leading ladies are these days.

The world of "Bayou Moon" is also endlessly fascinating. Unlike most paranormal fiction it doesn't really take place in an urban setting and the traditional fixtures of the genre, like vampires, witches and fairies, are nowhere to be seen. William's shape-shifting nature isn't the centerpiece of the story and the creatures that are sort of home-grown in the Broken are as original as they are deadly. Additionally, "Bayou Moon" isn't just about magic as the Broken is home to those who can perform all levels of magic (for many characters that means none-at-all), to those people and creatures who are magic. If I had any nit-picky complaints it would be that some of the plot devices are a tad complicated out the outset, but they do become clearer as the book moves along.

All of the story elements fit together seamlessly in a way that treats the reader to a unique blend of plot, setting and characterizations that put the book on a level above most of its competitors. If it falls below what I would consider a 5-star book, that's largely because it isn't one of those books that will go down as an instant classic-- it's still a paranormal romance after all. But for what it's meant to be it does its job very, very well (which means it's not a bodice-ripper in my lexicon). Even better, the story does find a way to tie back into the first book of the series with the promise of more sequels to come.
4 out of 5 stars.


AvDB said...

Nice review. It's nice to see that there are still some standout stories in such a saturated market.

Simcha said...

I've been undecided about reading this book. While I enjoyed On the Edge it didn't blow me away and this book doesn't even sound in any way similar to the previous book. But your positive review makes me think that I should perhaps give it a try.

SQT said...

Simcha- I liked "On the Edge"-- probably more than you did. But "Bayou Moon" is totally different than the first one. I think it's actually better than the first book in the series.

Simcha said...

OK, you've convinced me. I've added the book to my list books to acquire.

SQT said...

I hope you like it.