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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Night Shift" by Lilith Saintcrow

Official Lilith Saintcrow Website
Order “Night Shift
Read Reviews via Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, LoveVampires + My Favourite Books

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lilith Saintcrow—which is her real name by the way—is the author of numerous urban fantasy/paranormal romance titles including the Dante Valentine novels, The Watcher series, The Society series, and The Keeper books under the pen name Anna Beguine. “Night Shift” kicks off Lilith’s newest series, while a contribution by the author can be found in the new “Hotter Than Hell” (June 24, 2008) anthology edited by Kim Harrison. Upcoming releases include “Hunter’s Prayer” (August 26, 2008) and “Steelflower” (September 30, 2008), Book One in the Steelflower Chronicles.

PLOT SUMMARY: Not everyone can take on the nightside and survive. Not everyone tries. But Jill Kismet is not just anyone. She's a Hunter, trained by the best. Plus, she’s made a pact with the city’s hellbreed master and can draw on sorcerous energy that makes her stronger, faster and deadlier than her fellow hunters. Except Jill’s mentor is now dead and she’s been taking on the city of Santa Luz on her own. It’s a tough job that only gets worse when Jill is called in to investigate the aftermath of a particularly savage cop-killing and discovers not only the stench of hellbreed, but something else—something dangerous and tainted. Welcome to the night shift…

CLASSIFICATION:Night Shift” incorporates many classic urban fantasy traits—contemporary setting, first-person narrative, an ass-kicking heroine, supernatural creatures, police procedural, mysteries, et cetera—and reminded me of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Anita Blake with elements of Blade and Underworld all mixed in. While the novel plays around a little with romance and sarcastic humor, “Night Shift” is mainly action-oriented with a twist of horror and was darker than I was expecting. Recommended for fans of R-rated urban fantasy and readers looking for fast-moving, escapist fun…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 323 pages divided over thirty-one chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively via the hunter Jill Kismet. Story is self-contained, but “Night Shift” is the opening volume in a series with Book Two, “Hunter’s Prayer”, due out August 26, 2008. In fact, the novel contains a six-page excerpt from “Hunter’s Prayer”, as well as a little Glossary.

June 24, 2008 and July 3, 2008 marks the US/UK Mass Market Paperback publication of “Night Shift” via
Orbit Books. The cover design and photo-illustration was provided by Calvin Chu.

ANALYSIS: Lilith Saintcrow is the perfect name for an author of urban fantasy and I’ve been meaning to read one of her books ever since
Orbit first introduced me to her Dante Valentine novels last year. I hate jumping in the middle of a series though, so I decided to start with “Night Shift” instead which is the first book in the new Jill Kismet series.

Like most of the novels that I’ve read that are classified as urban fantasy, supernatural thriller or paranormal romance, “Night Shift” has its good and bad qualities. What I like about the book was its darker vibe, the emphasis on action instead of romance or comedy, the intense pacing, Jill Kismet’s noir-esque narrative voice, and Lilith’s piercing prose:

The arkeus took shape, rising like a fume from dry-scorched pavement, trash riffling as the wind of its coalescing touched ragged edges and putrid rotting things.”

The hell-thing howled, and my other hand was full of the Glock, the sharp stink of cordite blooming as silver-coated bullets chewed through the thing’s physical shell”.

On the flipside, I had three problems with the book, starting with the 1) one-dimensional supporting cast. Because of flashbacks and some interesting conflicts between Jill and her mentor/father-figure/lover Mikhail Tolstoi, her deal with a hellbreed and her past as a prostitute including concerns about damnation, Kismet is not really a concern in the book, but her supporting cast sure leaves a lot to be desired. 2) The humor in “Night Shift” just doesn’t work and is punctuated by some really bad jokes: “Get it? A Hell of a lot of damage? Arf arf”, or, “Get it, make a killing? Arf arf”. In fact, I think the novel would have been better off if the author had just done away with the jokes and attempts at humor altogether. And 3), “Night Shift” suffers from a lack of originality. Of course this last is subjective to the reader, but for me there are only so many books I can read that star a badass female protagonist protecting her city from demons, werewolves, vampires and other creatures that go bump in the night before I start getting a little bored. The one concession I’ll make in this instance is that Jill Kismet is particularly badass—besides hellbreed-tainted strength, speed and sorcery, Jill is also proficient with guns, knives, a whip and hand-to-hand combat, possesses a smart eye that can see below the surface of the world, and when the occasion calls for it, wields a mighty sunsword—and I enjoyed watching her in action :)

CONCLUSION: Because of bad jokes, a weak supporting cast, and failing to bring anything new to the table, I thought Lilith Saintcrow’sNight Shift” was a fairly average urban fantasy novel, especially compared to such authors as Mike Carey or T.A. Pratt. But then again, I’ve also read much worse and despite its deficiencies, “Night Shift” is fun, action-packed, and overall, a solid start to the Jill Kismet series…


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