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Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Saints Astray" by Jacqueline Carey (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Jacqueline Carey Website
Order "Saints Astray" HERE
Read FBC Review of "Naamah's Kiss"
Read FBC Review of "Naamah's Curse"
Read FBC Review of "Naamah's Blessing"
Read FBC Review of "Kushiel's Justice"
Read FBC Review of "Kushiel's Mercy"

INTRODUCTION: "Fellow orphans, amateur vigilantes, and members of the Santitos, Loup Garron-the fugitive daughter of a genetically engineered "wolf man"-and Pilar Ecchevarria grew up in the military zone of Outpost 12, formerly known as Santa Olivia....."

Jacqueline Carey is best known for her superb Kushiel Universe novels consisting of three trilogies about which you can read at length in the reviews linked above, while I would only add that they rank quite high on my list of all time favorite books.

In 2009, Ms. Carey published Santa Olivia, the first volume of a near future sf duology that starred Loup Garron, the daughter of a genetically engineered soldier who is raised in Outpost 12, a small town trapped in a buffer zone shielding Texas from pandemic-stricken Mexico.

While the characters of the novel were quite compelling and the writing was the expected superlative one, the book had two issues that prevented me from fully enjoying it - the limited world building and the emphasis on boxing which left me utterly cold.

Saints Astray is the sequel to Santa Olivia and follows the adventures of Loup and her childhood friend and current lover Pillar Ecchevarria after their daring escape from Outpost 12.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Saints Astray opens with Loup and Pillar taking in the possibilities and dangers of the wide world - at least outside the US where Loup is considered a non-person due to the constitutional amendment defining the genetically engineered as "property", while Pillar is of course an escapee of a high security prison which the Outpost was in practice.

But for the enlightened free world outside the US, Loup and Pillar are curiosities and Loup's talents immediately attract the attention of an upscale security outfit that provides bodyguards for VIP's at a price and they make her an offer she cannot refuse once Pillar is included in the deal...

So the adventure starts and the girls train, shop and make love and later deal with protection jobs for various clients that range from the somewhat farcical - a wedding in a mafia connected Italian family where some of the relatives of the bride and groom are like the famous Shakespearean ones - to the deadly serious, where wacko environmentalists plan to murder a (spoiled and well deserving a trashing, but still...) teen to protest her rich father's wicked ways.

When news that Loup's surrogate brother Miguel is in US hands, the girls try and think of an escape plan and well, opportunity in an unexpected guise soon shows up...

As it should be clear from the discussion above, Saints Astray transcends the limitation of the original novel with the whole world as a canvas and with Loup kicking butt in all kinds of ways this time, but the novel is much more.

First Saints Astray is a pure fun page turner, but it is also funny, poignant and even emotional by turns and of course in the second part when it gets "more serious", the big issues of what means to be human, what is freedom, etc are addressed also. As usual in a Jacqueline Carey novel, there is a lot of explicitness - this time mostly dealing with the relationship between the two girls of course -all done in the tasteful manner we are used from the Kushiel and Naamah series.

Overall, Saints Astray (highly recommended) is a lighter and considerably more fun novel than Santa Olivia, but also one which has quite a lot of substance, showing that "fun and serious topics" do not need to be exclusive.


Site Administrator said...

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