Sunday, November 11, 2012

How many Norsemen does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Five. One to hold the bulb, and four to drink until the room spins.

So, I'm reading Jacqueline Carey's Dark Currents, book 1 in her Agent of Hel series. For those not versed in such esoterica, Hel is one of the Norse Aesir; specifically, she watches over souls not taken to Valhalla. (As a note, Aesir is the plural of Ass, which really explains the Norse Pantheon.)(And Ass translates as god, but I really hate the Norse pantheon, so I'll stick with the vernacular translation.)

This one centers on Daisy, born of a rather interesting night of Ouija summoning a demon and part time incubus. As such, Daisy has a tail and a slight anger management problem. However, as Daisy and her mom live in Pemkowet, Michigan, this is much less of an issue that it may seem at first.  Most books in the genere go one of two ways. At least one major supernatural race is out of the closet (The Hollows, Southern Vampires, Anita Blake) or none of them are (Night Tracker, Blood Ties). In this, some cities (In this case, Pemkowet) have a more or less semi-aware human populace while most folks not under the influence of the Underworld (In this case, Hel actually grew Yggdrasil II in a sand dune on the coast of Lake Michigan and the underworld she inhabits is the remains of an old Dutch city that got buried in the sands.)

As the book starts, Daisy and her best friend are watching an open air concert. By the end of the evening, She and her best friend will be fighting because Jennifer has been flirting with Cody, whom Daisy has had a crush on since elementary school. However, as Cody is a werewolf, Daisy knows the all too human Jennifer won't have much luck in the relationship department. All of which gets interrupted a few pages later, as 4AM rolls around and Daisy gets called out to a crime scene.

You see, Daisy works as an Agent of Hel. Since Hel doesn't get out much, it falls to Daisy to represent the goddess in crimes that are perpetrated by and against the "eldritch community". (Basically, she's kind of like Fox Mulder, if Fox worked for the aliens as well as the FBI.) (I would also mention that while I love the word eldritch, it means green.) And since a young frat boy was fount floating face up in a fresh water river after drowning in sea salt...

As the investigations continue, we meet Daisy's second possible love interest and suspect, a ghoul named Stefan, new to Michigan by way of Poland. Stefan owns the Wheelhouse, a local ghoul bar. (For the sake of clarity here, Ghouls in this universe are more or less emotional vampires. Immortal, but feed on strong emotions rather than blood.) Stefan is working on getting the ghoul motorcycle gang out of the meth business.

We're also following Daisy's mom's Loteria card reading, which so far has been quite literal, and dealing with her Lamia godmother's attempts to get the undines and maiads to talk about what they saw when the frat boy was thrown in the water. (The Lamia, Lurine, is a famous B movie actress who married an old man and inherited his fortune when he died. She's also comic relief. Not a page goes by without a boob joke in one of her scenes.)

As of now, we're knee deep in investigating a Frat alumni and what the hell he means about being a Master of the Universe, and wondering who did kill the boy and why he had fish scales under his nails.

It's a good read, even if I do have a few quibbles. Mainly the one gay character, a guy who owns a magic shop and has purses dropping out his mouth every time he talks.

Also, this makes the third series I've read that's for some reason decided to introduce the Norse pantheon, and the second to specifically bring Hel into the fold. Wondering if Norse is becoming the new Native American in these things, or if it's more akin to Greece's mystical obsession with Egypt back in the Hellenic age. (Oh! It came from Egypt! It much be mystical!)

And I will finish this by thanking the author for not invoking Thor in her mythology. What little I actually know of Norse (I'm much more familiar with Greek, Sumerian, and Egyptian mythology) suggests that Thor is nothing like his Marvel Comics persona. In fact, he comes off as 20 pounds of manure in a 10 pound bag.