Review: Dark Currents

I should start this review by saying that Jacqueline Carey is one of my top-five favorite authors. Her novel Kushiel’s Dart and the nine-book series that followed it was a life-changing revelation for me. She’s also really lovely in person. (Me, name-drop? Never.)

Sadly, however, I didn’t enjoy Carey’s first foray into urban fantasy as much as I had hoped. Her novel Santa Olivia, about a girl whose father was a mysterious super-soldier, was an entertaining enough book, but certainly not a revelation. Being a big fan, I picked up the sequel when it came out, and found Saints Astray to be really disappointing.

Thus it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I picked up Dark Currents, Carey’s latest addition to the urban fantasy genre. I was a little hesitant because the description of the book mentions fairies and vampires and frankly, who isn’t a little True Blood-ed out where those are concerned?

I’m really glad, however, that I didn’t let my preconceived notions stop me from picking up this book. Carey has managed to successfully blend the poetic writing, compelling characters, and supernatural mystery of the Kushiel’s Legacy series with a modern setting and urban feel. Most importantly, however, she manages to do something new and interesting with a genre that has, of late, been a little worn-out with identical iterations of fairies and vampires and mermaids and other tropes of the genre.

The protagonist of Dark Currents is Daisy Johanssen, who is tall, blonde, and half-incubus (I’d cast Kristen Bell for the movie version or tv series; she’s petite but otherwise perfect for the role) . She lives in the town of Pemkowet, where the supernatural lives alongside humanity thanks to the blessing of the Norse goddess Hel, who lives underground. Literally. Hel has chosen Daisy to be her enforcer on the surface, granting her the title “Agent of Hel,” and giving her a magical badge only members of the eldritch community can see.

Daisy also works for the local police department. Mostly, she files paperwork, but when a student from a nearby college turns up dead in Pemkowet, the Chief of Police suspects eldritch involvement and partners Daisy with an officer who also happens to be both a werewolf and Daisy’s childhood crush. Cue romantic tension!

Urban fantasy sometimes suffers from lack of originality where supernatural creatures are concerned. The creatures that live in Pemkowet, however, are expertly drawn and multi-dimensional, from the B-movie actress who happens to be a lamia to the sexy Eastern European leader of the local “ghoul” biker gang. As you’d expect from Carey, there’s sexual tension all over the place, between Daisy and characters both male and female. My only complaint is perhaps that none of this tension is ever resolved, if you get my drift, but that’s how we get readers excited about a sequel, isn’t it?

Carey also keeps the tension in the book tight as a violin string by giving Daisy the power to bring Armageddon down on the entire world if she gives in to the temptation of her father. You see, the incubus who impregnated Daisy’s mother is a particularly powerful one, and thanks to a sort of paranormal legal loophole, if she doesn’t keep control of her temper she could accidentally summon him from across the barrier that separates the supernatural world from ours.

Oh and, did I mention that Daisy’s other inheritance from her father is a tail? This was, oddly, one of my favorite features of the book. Much like a dog’s tail, Daisy’s tail is subject to her emotions, and Carey never forgets to mention when it lashes in anger or curls between her legs in lust. Yeah, it kind of made me want one too!

All-in-all, Dark Currents is an excellent novel. It’s not going to blow your mind or change your life, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and probably the best novel I read this summer.  I’ve already checked out the sequel, Autumn Bones, from the library, and I can’t wait to read it!

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