I imagined the people below sitting on their front porches, enjoying the evening breeze, sipping sweet lemonade or perhaps frothy cold beer. And then they’d look up to see a woman with a flame arm flying through the air on a giant spider monster. Would they point and scream? Dial the cops and the TV stations? Decide to switch to O’Douls?
Or maybe they’d just give them a passing glance and mistake the spider rider for a weather balloon in the dimming light.
‘Oh to hell with it,’ I told Pal. ‘They can see us if they want to. Screw the rules.’”
I don’t know why, but Urban Fantasy has developed a nasty association with romance (of the Harlequin variety). Maybe we can blame the popularity of Laura K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books for that, maybe not, but it’s there. The second that I hear that term, an expectation of a young, hot female protagonist in either a modern or futuristic city, chock full of bad-ass and angst comes trundling through the door. Hell, it doesn’t help to have our half-clothed, Mossberg totin’ hottie wreathed in flame and dragon on the cover, does it? The back copy mention of her “hot, magic-drenched passion with her roguish lover” makes it worse.
This is a book that follows said sexpot on her quest to save her love, who was quite literally lost during a botched spell. She’s exiled from her society, labeled with the big “O” (outlaw) and must get by with nothing more than her own wits, grit and ferret familiar. With that said, we all know what to expect from here, right? Only someone who has never read any of Lucy’s work could say a thing like that.
In my review of her poetry collection, Chimeric Machines, I mentioned her gigantic brass ovaries as well as her willingness to smack the reader in the face with them and those puppies are in full swing here. What she does to her heroine during the first scene would be considered heresy in the lands of hearts, flowers and oversimplified girl-power. Seriously, that sh*t is just plain wrong. I’d love to tell you what exactly I am talking about, but I’ll let you discover it for yourself. From there, it only gets worse.
In many ways, this reminded me more of Tom Piccirilli’s A Lower Deep than the aforementioned Blake novels or anything put out by Luna, minus the somewhat overwrought tone (as much as I love that book, you have to admit that it is a tad heavy on the self-flagellation). Snyder presents us with a quite real and concrete, very modern view of Columbus, Ohio in which some people have the ability and knowledge to use magic. Heck, you could even see a bit of Harry Potter in there if you really wanted to. It’s fantasy grounded in reality, magic rooted in the dirt and muck of the mundane, a quality I look for in all of my favorite fantasy.
In addition to the grand brass lady parts, it is the attitude that Mrs. Snyder brings to the table that truly made this story song for me. Dancing from light playfulness to pure, mind flaying rage among the motes of a burning world, we are placed squarely in the mind of a character that is heart-felt, driven, more than a bit impetuous, and possessed of a strong sense of moral righteousness. I’m almost thinking of Douglas Adams, if he was really pissed off instead of depressed. There is no good reason for me to have enjoyed so much agony, horror and loss so thoroughly, but she makes it possible.
But Anton, I can hear you yelling inside my skull, this is a HORROR site, not fantasy. I could waste space discussing the fragility of the walls between fantasy and horror or even pointing you to some of the most striking elements of Tolkien’s work, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll give you a demon tearing through people on the streets of Columbus, baby murder, corruption of the innocent, a giant monstrosity tormenting unwary souls from the safety of the basement and freakin HELL. And that isn’t even mentioning the giant spider. Is that horror enough for you?
Look, I’m just going to make it simple: Ignore the cover and the back-copy and buy this damn book. Buy it now. Have a damn good time reading it. Thank me later.
Available from Del Rey
Also available from Amazon