Friday, December 26, 2014

Hags to riches

So, I finished Jaqueline Carey's Poison Fruit on the way into work this morning. Sadly, according to the library newsletter, this is the last of a trilogy. Sadder still is that it probably should have been at least two books, since the first half is a much different narrative from the second half.

This is not to say it's not a good book, but it is a bit of a disjointed transition from the quest to banish the night hag to a lawsuit designed to bring war to Little Niflheim.

We start with our protagonist, Daisy, learning that her sort of love interest, the Outcast Stefan, is headed back to Poland to take care of old business in his old domain. Which leaves room for her probably-not-gonna-happen flirtation with Cody Fairfax, the werewolf.

Unfortunately, this mainly comes up during a search for a Night Hag, which may or may not be real. (Since this is Pemkowet, Michigan, she is real; however, it is mentioned that there is a syndrome of people having realistic nightmares about hags sitting on their chest and suffocating them.) The Hag starts by attacking an unbalanced man recently returned from a war zone,  moves on to a seven year old, and winds up killing an old woman in a nursing home. The search on how to find her leads to an abandoned campground, where they meet the bogle Skrrzzzt who tells them the way to get rid of the Unseelie Hag (And therefor not particularly under the rule of the Oak King is to tie a piece of her hair around her neck. However, this requires Daisy to have a nightmare bad enough to draw the Hag to her.

So, being a good demon spawn, Daisy hits up her ex,. Sinclair, to curse her. This has the desired effect, and it also reveals Daisy's darkest fear: accepting her birthright and ending the world. More to the point, doing that and enjoying it.

After the Night Hag is resolved, we get a small interlude as Stefen returns and asks a favor of her as Hel's Liaison. Which is to kill a friend of his. This interlude is probably the best written section of the book, bringing up discussions on euthanasia, the downsides of immortality when one has a degenerative disease, and a bit of Talmudic thought to boot.

Then, we get into the second half, which really should have been a book of its own.

Our dear friend from the last book, the lawyer Dufreyne, is back, and buying up properties encroaching on Hel's domain. He's also quite busy suing Pemkowet over the Halloween adventures the past year. Turns out he's also Hellspawn, only he long ago accepted his birthright. (Then again, his was a planned pregnancy.) As he's working under the auspices of Elysian Fields, inc., it becomes fairly obvious a figure from the Greek Underworld is trying to muscle in on Hel's territory.And given his birthright includes powers of persuasion, it gets mighty ridiculous what happens as this part of the story progresses.

As I stated at the outset, this section would probably be better as a standalone book, instead of being layered in at the end of the Night Hag adventure. As the lawsuit storyline starts around Thanksgiving and ends in early February, there would have been much more room to explore what all was going on here, from Lurine the lamia's kiss, to the burgeoning relationship with Stefen, and it would have given much more room to fully flesh out the Greek underworld figure trying to muscle in on Hel's territory.  (Since I'm not in the mood for spoilers, let's just say the presentation of said figure is kind of flat until the end of the war. There's a heck of a lot that could have and should have been done with this presentation.)

There's also the end of the war, which I kind of had figured out the basics of long before the armies meet. It seems really rushed, and the epilogue discussing the aftermath again reiterates there are still stories to tell here. I'm kind of hoping that Ms. Carey writes more in this setting, since the writing is fresh and funny in several places, while being poignant and touching in other places. As it is, it reminded me a bit of Spider-Man 3, where two very different plots got shoehorned together due to a fight between the studio and the director. Thankfully, there's no My chemical Spider-Man moment in here, but the thought remains.