A Review of Book One of the Black Sun's Daughter: Unclean Spirits by M. L. N. Hanover
I started this book because I was on a look out for something new. I found it by accident and liked the synopsis.
The story starts with a man named Eric meeting up with some shady creatures in a bar because he needed to hire muscle for a plan he set into motion.
After the jump we'll start at the beginning. (But beware of spoilers!!)
The story's heroine is Jayne (Zha-nay). Jayne is a young woman of 23. She's a college dropout without any friends. She had a falling out with her overbearing religious father and can't go to her family for any kind of help. The only person she liked was her uncle Eric.
Early on in the story we find out why she had such a bond with her uncle. Some years before, Eric helped her out after she woke up covered in tattoos next to some guy and she had no memory of the night before and how she came to be in that position. Eric would visit Jayne and he also took an interest in her life and seemed to genuinely care about her.
Eric died and she was called to Denver to execute his last will and testament. Soon Jayne realizes that her uncle was an incredibly rich man who left all his wealth to her. While exploring this good fortune Jayne stumbles into Eric's world filled with dangerous creatures called riders and realizes her uncle wasn't killed by some common thugs and that those same bad-guys are coming after her now. As the story develops Jayne starts to realize she didn't know her uncle at all.
While stumbling in this new world she meets Eric’s co-workers, or more like, hired help when he needed it. First one she meets is Aubrey. He’s a biologist in his mid-thirties. Eric recruited him to try and figure out the biology of riders. He meets Jayne at the airport when she first arrives to Denver. She finds him cute and is attracted to him.
The second person she meets is Midian. He is described as looking like a corpse, a long dead corpse at that: “The skin was desiccated, tight, and waxy; the nose was sunken: the hands folded on his chest were fleshless as chicken wings.” We soon find out that Midian isn’t just a really ugly guy but a vamp of sorts, a cursed vamp who can’t feed. The reader is left ambivalent towards Midian’s character and you can’t make up your mind if he’s a good guy or a bad one.
The third and fourth members of this band appear after Jayne and Midian are attacked in Eric’s apartment. You see, Jayne kicks their asses (nobody knows how she did it) and these two new guys are the clean-up crew; Ex and Chogyi Jake. The first one is an ex-priest, and the second one seems to be an ex-junkie. While Ex feels like he is responsible for Jayne staying alive and takes all mistakes as his personal failures, Chogyi Jake appears to be more accepting of reality and goes with the flow. He has some knowledge of magic and uses it to help his friends.
And now we have our crew of merry men.
In come the bad guys, The Invisible College led by a man called Randolph Coin. He summons demons (vamps, werewolves, demons...) who inhabit human bodies until they push out the human soul and remain the only entity in the body, so they are called riders. Eric was trying to stop the next summoning and Coin had him killed.
Overall impression of the book is pretty good. Plot is good. The author doesn’t give away too much and there is a nice flow to the story, so you are left wanting more. The characters aren’t annoying (and that’s a big plus in my book). The heroine isn't omnipotent and needs guidance, but she isn't a whiny little know-it-all brat. She's brave and loyal, asks for advice and stands up for herself. Her reactions to supernatural events and death are believable and convincing.
However, the feeling I’m left with is that it’s all rushed. I get that Jayne is special (walks through wards and has random ass kicking skills) and we can’t dwell on that nugget if this is to be a series, but you can’t just mention it at random times through the book and then not develop it slightly towards the end. Additionally, after they make that incantation that dampens supernatural powers and should also dampen Jayne’s shields we never really find out if she lost her shields or not.
Furthermore, what’s with all the we-are-best-friends-forever vibe between the characters? They know each other for two weeks, how are you a family? I understand that stressful situations bring people together but this wasn’t really believable. Hanover gave Jayne some emotional depth but didn't really explore these feelings she has for her uncle. Next to that, we don't really understand where this closeness between main characters comes from. They don't spend enough time together for such feelings to develop. Also, Aubrey and Jayne being attracted to each other is cool, them having sex is cool too, but stronger feelings aren’t visible at all, or at least I haven’t felt them between these two. And Aubrey has some baggage of his own he didn’t own up to and that was a bit of a surprise. I loved Jayne’s reaction to it and how she handled herself and the whole situation.
This is the first book in the series, and I'll be reading the next one for sure.
This is the series:
1. Unclean Spirits
2. Darker Angels
3. Vicious Grace
4. Killing Rites
5. Graveyard Child