Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Unclean Spirits

Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover
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's review
Jan 17, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: urban-fantasy, 2009, review-copy
Read in February, 2009

Jayné (Zha-nay) Heller is a twenty-two year old university drop-out, alienated from her upright, conservative family, and doesn't even know where she's going to sleep next month when she gets the call about her uncle, Eric. The black sheep of the family, he's dead and has left her everything: his numerous properties around the world, his vast fortune, his friends ... and his legacy. The fortune was hard enough for her to swallow, but when she learns that Eric was involved in a battle with evil wizards known as the Invisible College and their "demon ridden" leader, Randolph Coin, she's sceptical - until they come for her.

She soon learns all about it: spirits from another plane are brought into this world and take host bodies. They're called "riders" and they can be vampires, werewolves, demons of various sub-species, and undetectable unless you can use your spirit energy, your "qi", to see the world clearly.

With the help of gorgeous scientist Aubrey; former Jesuit priest and weapons expert Ex; magically empowered Buddhist Chogyi Jake; and a desiccated corpse-like man who was cursed by Coin, Midian, Jayné believes she has all the assistance she needs to complete Eric's plan to kill Coin.

Written under a pseudonym for sci-fi author Daniel Abraham, Unclean Spirits reads like the script of one of those TV shows that's so popular since Buffy, and with an uncomplicated plot to match. It's a fun ride but I'm big on character development and I didn't get all that much here.

Jayné is engaging enough and has pleasantly human responses to shock, fear, abject terror etc., but she also conveniently, suddenly has expert fighting skills and magical protection - I hazard a guess it has something to do with the unfinished tattoo on her back that she woke up with after a binge-drinking session when she was sixteen. She lacks the charisma of Kelley Armstrong's Elena Michaels, or the refreshing candour of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse, for instance, but we have caught her at the beginning of her story arc and subsequent growth, and already in the space of one book she's grown some. One of the nice things about her, actually, is how her flaws are subtly presented and you don't even notice them until someone else points them out. Which makes a lot of sense, since she's the narrator and sometimes we don't see ourselves the way others do.

The other characters were more thinly sketched, which speaks badly for Jayné's perceptiveness and interest in others: frankly, it makes a protagonist seem rather selfish.

I did have the niggling thought that, what with Aubrey, Ex, Chogyi Jake and a hefty dose of sexual tension, if this were an erotic kind of book it'd be quite the party. As it is, there's already a bit of a messy love triangle developing, since it's pretty clear that Ex has a big thing for Jayné and she's too distracted - or dense - to notice.

There were a few small inconsistencies or implausabilities that bothered me but they weren't huge, and I loved the fact that these people actually ate. I know, it's a small thing, but I've read so many urban fantasy or paranormal romance books where the characters just run on adrenaline for several days straight - yeah Christine Feehan I'm looking at you.

I do like what Hanover's done with a well-worn premise, combining demons with Invasion of the Body Snatches - though the tone and descriptions brings to mind Men In Black instead - with Midian providing the snarky humour. The fighting scenes were hard to follow but otherwise the writing was smooth and the pacing in particular was just right.

It's a pretty straight-forward, black-and-white, good vs. evil set-up, but I appreciated and enjoyed the theological dilemmas and complicated positions of the main characters, which provided a bit of a balance. It's a very quick read, engaging and enjoyable, if you're not looking for anything more complicated or deep.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Gemma If you haven't read book 2, I suggest you do. there is more development with regards to Jayné and a nice plot twist in there that is rather subtle, especially with the way Hanover nee Abraham has written it.

I agree that I think the tatoo has something to do with her power to be super cool fighter and protected, but it doesn't bother me. :)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I saw it the other day and was tempted, but I just have too many other books to get through these days that it's fallen back on the mental list. (am trying to discipline myself by giving priority to the books I already have!) Always good to hear there's character growth and plot twists!!

message 3: by Marius (new)

Marius You sure it's not "Zhaynè"?
Because the Y doesn't make sense if you don't pronounce it.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Marius wrote: "You sure it's not "Zhaynè"?
Because the Y doesn't make sense if you don't pronounce it."

*shrug* That's the pronunciation the author gives in the book.

message 5: by Marius (new)

Marius Oh. Haha. Ok.
Well, I guess not all fantasy authors are language buffs.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Marius wrote: "Oh. Haha. Ok.
Well, I guess not all fantasy authors are language buffs."

I like to think they make it up as they go along ;)

message 7: by Marius (new)

Marius Probably that too. :)

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