Eric's Reviews > Last Car to Annwn Station

Last Car to Annwn Station by Michael Merriam
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Jun 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, fantasy, ebooks, kindle
Recommended to Eric by: Michael Merriam
Recommended for: Urban fantasy fans, fantasy fans tired of sexy vampires
Read from June 27 to 28, 2011 , read count: 1

In the interests of fairness, I must disclose that I am a personal friend of the author and his family.

I like many different kinds of books and authors, and I like them for different reasons. One thing they all have in common is that the books are interesting. Other strengths and weaknesses vary from book to book.

Where Michael Merriam and Last Car to Annwn Station shine are in the realms of story and character. The story sets a good pace, and feels neither rushed nor plodding. There are really three storylines at work. Two are intimately related, and the third is tangled up in their dance. Mae Malveaux is a CPS case worker who has stumbled across something hidden while trying to protect a young girl named Chrysandra Arneson. She's warned off the case, which has been closed irregularly by the county attorney. Shortly afterward, she begins to see strange things that have no right existing in the staid world of the Twin Cities. A ride on a ghostly trolley car changes her life forever.

At the same time, we learn of a young girl being held captive and writing letters to a wall in her room with a smuggled pencil. It quickly becomes apparent that the girl is somehow connected to the Arnesons, and whatever strange activity Mae has tripped over.

In the midst of this chaos comes Jill, a fellow county employee and long-time friend of Mae. With timing that couldn't be worse, she begins to pay serious court to our confused heroine, getting herself involved in the mystery as well.

The story unfolds well, with revelations and events coming along quickly enough to keep it interesting but no so fast as to feel chaotic and confused. The story ties romance, mythology and mystery together in an enjoyable package. The use of the unknown kidnapped girl as a viewpoint character removes some of the mystery, but allows us to know in a vague way what the Bad Guys are up to, and prevents many things in the final confrontation from feeling like a convenient deus ex machina.

The romantic subplot is handled in a believable and appropriate fashion. Romance and its attendant dramas are not the motivating factor for the overall plot, though they have a predictable effect on the actions of some characters. The choice to make the main character's love interest a long-standing friend was a good one: there is no way a relationship budding this quickly between strangers would have been believable.

The characters in the novel are very well realized, including many that have relatively little active time in the book. Motivations and relationships are complex, and some are pleasantly left vague instead of being artificially tied up in a neat package. The antagonists, though quite vile in sum, are not two dimensional and have their own multi-layered reasons for their actions. I would like to have known a bit more about the personalities and motivations of some of the supernatural entities, but at the same time their vagueness lent them an air of inhumanity.

The only real issue I had with the book was an occasional area where the language felt stiff. Merriam's prose is straightforward and to-the-point, rather than beautiful or lyrical. This works for his style of storytelling, getting the words out of the way of the story and its characters. However, there are times when I felt like the dialog in particular was begging for more shorthand or contractions, and the text's more formal tone interrupted the rhythm in my head.

All told, an excellent and easy read. Recommended for any fans of urban fantasy without the overwhelming preoccupation with romance and sexuality.
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