All Things Urban Fantasy's Reviews > The Better Part of Darkness

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay
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's review
Jan 09, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed-by-abigail
Read in December, 2009

Review courtesy of

Imagine a world where Heaven and Hell combine, where beings thought to exist only in myths live and work alongside with humans who are still reeling from the shock of worlds beyond their own. Or better yet, let Kelly Gay imagine for you.

"You told a two-thousand-year-old oracle to prove it." Hank kept pace beside me, nursing his bloody nose with a handful of fast-food napkins I'd pulled from the glove box earlier. "I mean, do you ever think before the words spew out of your mouth, Charlie?" – Opening line from The Better Part of Darkness

The Better Part of Darkness is an a balancing act between contrasts: heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon, humans and off-worlders(including Sirens, Jinns, Necromancers, Hellhounds, angel-like Adoni, Mages, Goblins, and Revenants -you’ll have to read the book to find out what those are), motherhood and being a warrior, love you want but can’t have and love you left that wants you back, and ultimately the inner struggle between light and darkness.

The alternative Atlanta in The Better Part of Darkness might just be my favorite new urban fantasy world. It is at once instantly familiar as it pulls concepts from Greek mythology (heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon), and yet delightfully other as it twists those concepts on their head. Male sirens, where have you been all my life?

The characters that populate this world are just as interesting. Divorced mother turned paranormal police officer Charlie is sarcastic, determined, and capable. Yet beneath her tough exterior she is also vulnerable, scared, and occasionally reckless. The combination made for a wonderfully realistic heroine. I loved the mystery regarding Charlie. Prior to this book she died for two hours and now suffers from chronic cryptic nightmares reliving the experience. Oh and there's also the inhuman bursts of strength that accompany strong feelings of anger that she can't explain.

I wasn't sure if I would like the fact that the main character was a single mom or if I would hate the idea that she willingly placed herself in a dangerous situation that could at any time deprive her daughter of a mother. But the author did a wonderful job portraying the situation in such a way that I knew that Charlie put Emma first. She was always trying to ensure not just Emma's physical safely, but her emotion safety as well.

And then there's Hank. “a drop-dead gorgeous siren with all the grace and power of a lion.” A male Siren who happens to be Charlie’s partner. Gorgeous, funny, strong, brave, (fill in your own perfect male trait and Hank probably has it).

There is plenty of sexual tension here too as Charlie deals with the advances from her ex-husband who she might still love, and the undeniable yet impossible attraction she feels for her partner Hank.

I held up both hands, putting an immediate halt to any mention of sex. Definitely not something I wanted to discuss with a drop-dead gorgeous siren with all the grace and power of a lion. That was a personal boundary I promised myself long ago I'd never cross. If I did, it would be way too easy to start wanting something I couldn't -- and shouldn't -- have. Hank was not only my partner, but one of my best friends. Not something I wanted to mess with. –The Better Part of Darkness.

There is so much to like about The Better Part of Darkness, but if I have to nitpick, I would say the first half of the book was better than the last, and trimming about 30 pages from the ending showdowns could have improved the pacing as it did drag just slightly. And I would have loved more scenes with Hank, but I’m reaching here. I have a list of ‘ingredients’ that I love to find in urban fantasy:

* Strong world building-check
* tough yet realistic heroine with an as yet not fully realized paranormal potential-check
* alpha males-double check
* romantic tension that promises to develop in subsequent books-check
* complex plotting without needing to take notes to keep everything straight-check
* and most of all consistency with characters or believable growth/redemption of characters-check

Its almost as if I handed my recipe to Kelly and she cooked it up just for me (*side note: Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews have this recipe down cold).

I read a lot of urban fantasy books in 2009: good, bad, and everything in between, but The Better Part of Darkness is one of my favorites. The promise of this series alone given the concept of the mythology-meets-reality world, the fresh influx of paranormal characters (forget vampires, I want more male sirens), and a protagonist who acknowledges her human weaknesses while embracing a strange and frightening future with strength and determination is enough to have me giddy with anticipation for The Darkest Edge of Dawn (Charlie Madigan, Book 2) Available now for pre-order! Street date: Aug. 31, 2010

Sexual Content:
A brief scene of graphic sensuality. Characters visit a Bath House but nothing is graphically described. An implied scene of oral sex.
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