Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Soul Song" by Marjorie M. Liu

I know I've mentioned this series before (or at least, I'm fairly certain I have!). Liu is back with another Dirk & Steele paranormal romance, and this one is almost as good as the others. Notice I say almost. Yes, as seems inevitable with series authors, Liu is starting to slip a bit. Just my opinion, mind you!

M'cal is a merman. More precisely, he is a Krackeni, an ancient race of beings that have dwelt in the oceans for eons. He's been enslaved by a witch and has been forced to steal souls for her in order for her to gain power. Unfortunately, those stolen souls also result in death, as M'cal later explains to our heroine; a human without a soul literally loses the will to live, usually within 48-72 hours. This technically makes M'cal a murderer. Worse yet, the witch has ordered him to steal yet another soul - that of Kitala Bell.

Kit is a musician, a woman with a fiery passion for music, and a fiddle that earns her not only money but respect and adoration around the world. It's a lonely existence, though, as she has another talent, one she keeps hidden for fear of being declared insane; she "sees" the deaths of those around her. Never peaceful ones, just the violent kind. It's a "gift" she's had most of her life, one that her grandmother, Old Jazz Marie, tried to develop. Kit was young, though, and wanted no part of that training, preferring to live as normal a life as possible.

When Kit "sees" the death of a woman at her latest concert, she finds herself doing something she's tried not to do in a very long time - warn her. The results are disastrous, but the woman does seem to believe Kit, which is strange. Just when it looks like it's curtains for Kit, M'cal enters the scene. But instead of doing as the witch has instructed, he becomes enthralled with Kit and rescues her, then tries to send her away from him.

It's the classic star-crossed lovers story, only the lovers aren't exactly normal humans. And it's not the families holding them back, either. Both M'cal and Kit are well-developed characters, and the romance between them was believable. So why was I not as happy with this entry? Well, probably because it was a slow-starting work, and the boys from D&S didn't show up until almost half-way through the book. The very thing that's had me loving this series was missing a bit here - the detective gang. Once the others showed up on the scene, the storyline picked up as did the action. And it added the necessary levity, too; most of Liu's tales are fraught with peril and danger, something that needs a good laugh inserted every once in a while. Koni, a shape-shifter, figures prominently into the second half of this entry, and he definitely provides the laughs.

I will say that there are signs in this novel that there is something darker coming up for the characters in the series, a "big battle" if you will. I know some other authors in this vein are heading towards the same thing but have taken several more books to get there. I'm glad Liu isn't wasting any time! I will still strongly recommend this author and her works; she's better than a lot of the entries in this genre that are flooding the market, a good percentage of which are just dreck. And I still want to read the next Dirk & Steele book, so all is not lost! Just get the other guys/gals in the agency onto the palette faster next time, that's all I ask.

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