Monday, 4 May 2009

Ghostland by Jory Strong

Ghostland tells the story of shamaness Aisling McConaughey. Taken from her home, she saves the life of a wealthy man's mistress, but this will just be the beginning of her troubles. Forced to call on the Djinn prince Zurael for help, the two of them will be pulled deeper into a complex situation that was set in motion long before either of them met.

I've kept this as an ungraded review mainly because of my strong views on the amount of sex in the book. Aside from that I think this book is well worth checking out, so please bear that in mind when reading the review.

Let's get the niggles out of the way. This story (for me) has far too much sex, too much swelling, hardening and engorging. As mentioned in the short review the hero seems to have a permanent erection, to the point it's a wonder he can get anything accomplished. Despite the incredible amount of sex they have I didn't really get a good connection between the two of them - Zurael and Aisling. This is one of the problems of urban fantasy romance over urban fantasy. In UF there would be time to build a relationship between the characters where in UFR there is an expectation that the relationship will be nicely resolved by the end of the story.

Also there's an anal sex scene which seems completely unnecessary. Aisling's apparently submissive nature is glibly pronounced by another character but this feels forced rather than organic. I would have loved to read a lot less of that and a lot more of the interaction between Aisling and other supernatural characters, and more details on the plot.

Having said that there are little moments between the two of them that shine. When they get into trouble at a nightclub, Aisling feels terrible guilt because of what happened to other people who were there. Zurael responds
"You were the only human in the club worth saving..."
Yes! Just that one line and it says so much more about where their relationship is going than five sex scenes. Hopefully there will be more of that sort of thing in the books to come.

Complaints aside, there is much to recommend here. Following on from my short review. This story has some of the most interesting worldbuilding I have read in a while. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where supernaturals no longer hide and different groups hold control of different areas, Aisling and Zurael have to walk a tightrope through religious, political and supernatural factions.

I love how every little thing that happens is woven into the story. Jory Strong never loses the thread of her plot and things which didn't seem important at the beginning are revealed to have greater significance later.

For me the last third of the book is the strongest, we get into the meat of the story, the plot threads are brought together and you are left wanting to know what's going to happen next.

Aisling is an appealing heroine, maybe a little too trusting but that seems to be inherent in her nature and will probably be something that is worn from her by the life she has to lead. Especially if the quote from another character in regard to her is anything to go by.
Death drapes you like a billowing cloak...It writhes at your feet and twines around you like a nest of serpents, so your touch becomes its harbinger.
Perhaps my favourite part of the book was when she travelled to vampire controlled San Francisco and assisted in the turning of a new vampire. I hope that the vampires will be making an appearance in a future book as I would love to learn more about them. (There were also a couple of other plot threads - the child witch, the fate of the Ifrit - that whilst not left dangling are definitely a possibility to be explored further in upcoming stories.)

I loved how Aisling's compassion is apparent in everything she does. For a character whose power means dealing with death and the bereaved it would have been easy to make her cold and distant. Instead it's her warmth and understanding which gets her through and you can see why Zurael is drawn to her vulnerability.

All of the species featured have their own societies and etiquette - Djinn, vampire, shaman, witch, all incredibly well-realized. I also very much liked the protrayal of angels, there was an otherness about them which I thought worked well. There are also rules to this world.
An answer given freely was lost forever.
Rules serve to give a solid framework to the world in which the characters live. There have to be consequences for actions especially in a rigid society such as the one in which Aisling lives.

It took me the whole book to decide whether or not I would follow this series, I changed my mind several times whilst reading. But I am at least going to pick up the second book in the series because I want to know where this story is going.


Marg said...

It sounds as though the fact that she writes erotica has filtered into this book as well.

LesleyW said...

Marg - I'd say so, the sex (for me) had more focus on the act rather than the emotions.

Naomi said...

Damn, I was really looking forward to this and now I'm not so sure... I hate it when other characters declare a heroine/hero to be "a natural submissive." Really never does anything for me.

LesleyW said...

Naomi - if it helps it wasn't the hero who said this to the heroine, it was a different character. But I know what you mean and I wondered if it was necessary. I still think it's a book that's worth checking out.

Naomi said...

I still want it; at least nobody committed the (for me) cardinal sin of mentally raping the heroine and telling her it was for her own good, so she accepts it and forgives the person.