Sunday, September 4, 2011

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

I know it may be difficult to believe, but this is my first Richelle Mead book.  For years, I've seen the Vampire Academy books in stores, but never got around to reading one.  I probably would have started there, but Succubus Blues was one of our Book of the Month selections for August on GoodReads, so it got the nod.

This isn't the best PnR / Urban Fantasy I've ever read, but like Firelight, it is a book with amazing potential.  Unlike FirelightSuccubus Blues doesn't spend most of it's time on filler material and wasn't nearly as annoying to me.  If Firelight was a weak three stars, then Succubus Blues is a much stronger three stars (probably something closer to a 3.75).  I'm very much looking forward to the other books in this series as I hear they get better (pretty typical for series books in this genre).

Succubus Blues is told from the first person perspective of Georgina Kincaid, a long time succubus who has grown disenchanted with the lifestyle.  When local immortals start turning up dead suspicion initially falls on Georgina, but it's quickly apparent that she could never have managed the killings.  Before she knows it, Georgina is caught up in a race to determine the true identity of the killer before she loses her own life, or worse, one of the lives of her fiends... err... friends. 

Nothing really stands out for me about Richelle's writing style. Her characterization is fair, her pacing is good, and her plotting is reasonable.  I found this story somewhat predictable, but I don't really see that as a flaw (most heavy readers are good at figuring out who-done-its).

My biggest complaint is her world building.  As this is the first book in a series, I don't expect Richelle to explain everything about her world to me, but I do expect her to tell me enough for the premise to make sense.  In this book the relation between, and the purpose of, the various immortals is pretty relevant, but Richelle never gives a clear understanding of their role in the grand scheme of things.  In one particularly annoying part, Georgina says in the narrative something to the affect of, "I explained to him the rules of being a succubus..." (not a direct quote but close enough).  This caused me some degree of consternation because I kept thinking, would you explain them to me, PLEASE.

Without this background knowledge it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief as it pertained to the cooperation of the immortals portrayed in the book.  Look, I'm a lawyer.  I understand that working in an adversarial system does not foreclose friendship between opposing parties.  I've gone to lunch with opposing counsel on many occasions and consider most of them my friends outside the court room.  Richelle, implies that being an immortal in her world is similar in that the forces of good and evil are really just a bunch of beings trying to get by.  The epic battle for souls is merely an occupation.  Kind of like this (feel free to stop after about the 1:30 mark, although, this is one of my personal favorites and the end IS directly on point):

Somewhat obsurd, right?  To me, as explained thus far, the world of Succubus Blues isn't far off.  I mean we're talking about people's souls here.

My favorite stories involve a gradual fall from grace, ala The Dresden Files or The Hollows, where actions, over time, taken in the name of good result in the protagonist becoming what he or she fights against.  Similarly, I love a redemption story, where our protagonist, once of questionable morales, endeavors to rise above and attone for past actions. 

The Georgina Kincaid series appears to want to be the latter and I'm happy to continue reading to see how it progresses, but personally, I feel Richelle has created a back story for Georgina that is overly sympathetic and not quite "sell my soul" worthy.  There are alot of intervening years between Georgina's origin and where the story takes up in Succubus Blues.  Purportedly, she was at one point, the best at whatever it is that Succubi do (not the sex part, although I'm sure she's good at that too, but the soul corrupting / harvesting or whatever part), so maybe in future books she'll prove to be sufficiently evil to make a good redemption story out of it.


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