Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 May 2013
This review is for Books 1-3 of this series, the only three I have read, or will be reading.
It took me a while before I realized what bothered me most about the heroine of this book. If I may refer to Jungian archetypes, Urban Fantasy protagonists are nearly always Artemis re-cast - the huntress, the protector of women and children, not-to-many lovers etc. Buffy, Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, etc all fit this archetype, and we're comfortable with them. We are not comfortable with Aphrodite as a heroine. She is more likely to be a villain - the femme fatal as opposed to goddess of love. In once sense then, Hamilton breaks from the contemporary fantasy tradition in casting Aphrodite as the heroine, and tries to create a universe and a faerie culture which is alien and different - as one would expect faeries to be - and in this she does something original. The difficulty is that the heroine is simply not human enough to create the all important empathy between the first-person protagonist and the reader.
The first book was unsuccessful because there wasn't a coherent story arch. The story moved to the fae courts before we get a sense of Merry's job, life, wants, childhood and dislikes. At times the dialogue seems a little forced and stilted, and Merry hops from lap to lap, kiss to kiss, and man to man without real thought or emotional connection. Nothing much seems to happen, there is very little excitement or action or adventure or mystery which seems at odds with the idea that Merry starts out as a PI. She is unashamed (as we would expect from Aphrodite) at kissing, caressing, jumping in and out of bed, public displays of sexual intimacy etc, but is "horrified" when the European tabloids get hold of the pictures. The Fertility Goddess wouldn't care. The Fertility Goddess would be posing for pictures, revealing in media attention, and simply not understand why some people don't like it. Heck, the Fertility Goddess would have her own TV station and a string of self-help books on "How to be a better lover in 7 days". In Book 1 there is not enough realism to sustain the illusion. I couldn't give a toss about the heroine. I didn't empathize, she seems to lack inherent warmth and depth of feeling, and she seems to contradict herself. That said, it could be that the heroine grows over the course of the books, so I persevered and read the next two in the series.
By book 3 however, things had changed, but not for the better. The poor writing and characterization still dominate the prose. The heroine, by her very promiscuity emasculates the male characters in the book, and still the lack of empathy, lack of moral compass, borders on the sociopathic. Merry does not learn, she does not grow, she operates without pity or shame. However, the gore, the rapes, the sexual coercion against both male and female characters is perhaps the most deeply disturbing aspect of this series. It is the reason why I will not be reading further. It is the reason why no-one should bother with this series - if you are reading for urban fantasy, there is no plot, no characters, no skillful worldbuilding. If you are reading for erotica (what genre are these books anyway?) then if gore, sexual coercion, rape and mutilation is your thing ...maybe you need to see a shrink rather than feed those fantasies.
I've noticed a disturbing growing trend in Women's fiction was the increasingly unacceptable and disturbing degree of violence, especially sexual violence against secondary female characters, which has no rhyme, reason, cannot further the plot or growth of the characters. Goodness and mercy does not triumph, cannot really, when there is no good, no right or wrong, only power, red in tooth and claw. These books are nihilistic and disturbing examples of this trend. For all the lip service to the"Divine Feminine", we women are continually served up a diet of nasty trash which encourages us to see ourselves as so much meat. And, to paraphrase Huxley - to be meat, and not to mind being meat.
I ask again, if these are our fantasies, how do we live?
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