Book Reviews: Midnight Riot, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Frost Burned

Cross-posted from my Goodreads account

I’ve had really good luck with books lately! I found two new series that I enjoy very much, both in genres that are clogged with mediocrity. One’s urban fantasy (set in the modern world) and the other traditional fantasy featuring a medieval-type setting. I really like both of these when done well, but the vast majority of new releases in both genres consist of derivative, formulaic drek, so finding a fun new fantasy series kind of feels like winning the lottery.

Midnight Riot

The Peter Grant books are directly comparable to the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher (another urban fantasy series that I quite like). Except that where Harry Dresden is a wizard P.I. in Chicago, Peter Grant is a wizard cop in London. I really enjoyed the British flavor in these books, and I found the main characters (Peter, his partner Lesley, and his wizardly mentor Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale) all compelling and well-rounded. The writing is workmanlike, nothing fancy, but perfectly serviceable. I plowed through Midnight Riot (which was originally published in the U.K. under the title Rivers of London) and its two sequels, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground, and I’m impatiently awaiting the next installment.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first in what looks to be a trilogy, though only the first two books are out so far. It follows the adventures of a master thief (the titular Locke Lamora) through a gritty medieval world. Author Scott Lynch made a little bit of a splash when he responded to a reader who accused him of “political correctness” for writing a female, non-white pirate captain into the series as a supporting character:

You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it.

Why shouldn’t middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. H.L. Mencken once wrote that “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” I can’t think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.

Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights.

I read that, and in the minute that followed I went to Amazon and I bought The Lies of Locke Lamora. And if I have a criticism, it’s that Zamira doesn’t show up until halfway through the second book in the series (Red Seas Under Red Skies). But, you know, she’s worth the wait. I am grateful for Zamira Drakasha. I was, in fact, amused and delighted.

Frost Burned

On the other hand, I was disappointed by the latest entry in a different series I’ve been following. The Mercy Thompson books follow the adventures of a woman who can take the shape of a coyote, and the pack of werewolves that she runs with. It’s a wildly successful series and one that has (unfortunately) spawned a vast number of imitators. This is because the books are great fun.

Frost Burned, though, is the seventh entry in the series, and this one feels like treading water. It could’ve used better editing, too. Dialogue is clunky and characters do really stupid things just to push the plot along. I still like Mercy, but it felt like she wasn’t really there in this one. I half suspect Briggs of relying on an uncredited co-writer. Or maybe it’s just that she’s lost her passion for this series, but keeps writing Mercy Thompson books because they sell so well.

I think Briggs should branch out a bit, and come back to Mercy when she’s feeling inspired. Surely at this point they’ve both earned a break.

2 Responses to “Book Reviews: Midnight Riot, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Frost Burned

  • Dom Camus Says:

    I think Zamira took over your Lies of Locke Lamora review a bit there! What did you think of the first book?

    • Shannon Phillips Says:

      I gave it three stars on Goodreads, which means “I liked it.” But not “I *really* liked it,” which would be four stars. It’s a pretty grim-‘n-gritty world which is not always my favorite. But I was invested enough to go on to the second book.

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