Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Unquiet Dreams

Unquiet Dreams, Mark Del Franco, Ace 2008. (Also see Book 1: Unshapely Things).

Unquiet Dreams focuses on the continued adventures of Connor Grey, a disabled druid working in Boston (specifically in the fey-populated 'Tangle' neighborhood). I've been to Boston, and I'm pretty sure this neighborhood actually exists. At the very least, there must be some sprites and phantoms hanging around the Common.

Connor used to be at the top of his game, getting all the choicest Guild jobs, but a run-in with a mystical terrorist (Bergen Vize) at a nuclear power plant left him with a shadowy "mass" in his brain that blocks his powers. Del Franco creates a world where both humans (or near-humans) and the fey can manipulate something called 'essence,' and by the finale of Unquiet Dreams, an essence war practically destroys the entire city. The novel builds to a literally explosive climax, as what seems to be a simple death investigation (a slain Elvish diplomat and a murdered street kid) turns into a transnational struggle for control of the Guild.

Connor is a likable (and damn sexy) character, and his caustic bitterness over losing his (once considerable) powers gives him an interesting sense of vulnerability. At times, Del Franco invests a bit too much effort describing how powerful the druid used to be, when a few specific examples would probably be more tantalizing for the readers (why does Keeva even deign to talk to him, for instance, aside from the fact that they must have been a smoking hot item at some point?) I particularly love the camaraderie between Connor and Stinkwort, his friend and partner who happens to be a three-inch-tall flit. They form a great investigative duo, even when, at times, Stink tends to appear when he's most needed plot-wise and then disappear afterwards. I wanted to see Connor and Stink watching a football game or sharing a pitcher (and thimble) full of beer in front of the TV. They make an awesome odd couple.

The majority of urban fantasy centers upon spunky female heroines, so Connor represents an important alternative within the genre. The fact that Del Franco spins a magical narrative around a magically 'blocked' character is, in a way, ingenious, since it's Connor's personality and affability that we come to appreciate, not just his powers. Supporting characters, such as his cop buddy, Druidic mentor, and former Guild cronies, make Connor's world even more interesting--although, as is the case sometimes with Stinkwort, I'd like to see more of these supporting folks and have their relationships with Connor fleshed out a bit.

Del Franco was one of the first Ace authors I spoke with when I was still working on Night Child, and I was thrilled to pick up Unshapely Things, knowing that I'd be reading the work of a peer and contemporary. I'm still just as excited as I wait for Book 3, and I anticipate that Connor will have plenty of chases through the Tangle as his story unfolds.

1 comment:

Princess Allie said...

I am glad I am not the only one who thinks Connor is sexy. Te-he!