by Jacqueline Carey
A swish of a cane, a doff of a hat. ‘Tis I, the Baron of Books, bringing yet another review (what’s that make for me, a magnificent three? Yeah . . .okay, so I need to write more, obviousness is obvious).
So I’d like to tell you a bit about a book, it’s called Dark Currents, it’s by a lady named Jacqueline Carey, and it’s very good. And no, that’s not a spoiler.
I first saw the cover for Dark Currents in a local Barnes and Noble, perusing with my lovely sister the Queen. I was immediately intrigued by the cover (awkward pose of the heroine aside), mostly due to the subtitle “Agent of Hel”.
Now I have no large knowledge of mythology as a whole (I’ve read a few books, mostly Bullfinch’s Mythology). But Norse gods have always been a bit of a fun point. They’re delightfully vicious, and at the same time, utterly lovable. A few days prior to seeing this book, some friends and I had been involved in discussions concerning “Hel” (Norse Goddess of the underworld) and thus, “Agent of Hel” sounded pretty interesting.
As it turns out, “pretty interesting” quite aptly describes it. Dark Currents focuses on Daisy Johanssen, the aforementioned agent of Hel in the little midwestern resort town of Pemkowet. There, she’s a part-time file-clerk for the police department and a full time enforcer of Hel’s justice on the Eldritch community.
As you’ve probably guessed, one can’t very well be an “Agent of Hel” in a regular, normal world. The world Jacqueline Carey has created here is mostly like ours, except that in certain places across the globe, there are beings of magic and supernatural power. Daisy happens to belong to the supernatural (or Eldritch) community. She’s sort’of a hellspawn.
And yes, you read that right. Let me clarify, she’s more a half-hellspawn. Human mother, father of a not-so-human nature. It all stems from a foolish use of a Ouija board and something actually answering the call . . . rather awkward, really.
One of the big focuses of the book, however, was the emphasis of choice. Daisy’s mother chose to keep her, rather than doing what her friends urged her to do with a lesser demon’s (and sometimes incubus) baby. But no, the mother chose to raise her child. And Daisy has a choice as well. It’s made clear, that at any time she wishes, she can actually lay claim to her birthright (which in this case apparently includes bat-wings, a fire whip and an over-all brimstone motif). Admittedly, Daisy’s also informed that if she does that, she pretty well kickstarts the apocalypse.
The emphasis on choice, however, is still clear. Born quite literally with a tail (admittedly, it’s a small one, and with some slightly larger-than-normal jeans, Daisy hides it quite well), she’s given the power of deciding who she wants to be. And she chooses to be herself, rather than what others think she should be.
Obviously, considering the book does have to have a bit more dire need than her controlling her darker urges and patently “not” exploding the universe, there’s a murder in town, and it looks like the Eldritch community might be involved. The local cops know at least a bit about their supernatural neighbors, and are actually pretty decent about keeping the peace. The town even lightly plays up the fact that it has actual fairies that a tourist might get a chance to see, conveniently leaving aside details like the fairies are sort of jerks and there are blood-sucking vampires . . . and you get the idea.
Add onto that the fact that the Eldritch try hard to keep their existence at least somewhat secret from the majority of humanity, and a possible murder of a local college boy gets everyone’s attention. Hel wants it dealt with, the police want it dealt with. Daisy serves both, she’s right in the thick of it.
Now bear in mind, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a well-crafted story with likable characters. I do have some . . well, not exactly complaints, more instances of as best I can describe “jarring”’ness. Considering the majority of the humans in this book aren’t supposed to know much about supernatural creatures besides that the local tourism industry plays up the fact that their town’s known for funny things happening, it’s a tad jarring when these “uninitiated” take meeting a supernatural creature in stride.
Personally, if I were confronted with a werewolf, or a ghoul (think emotional vampire), or say a FROST GIANT, I’d be pretty well speechless. The humans of this book generally give a slight grunt, a bit of wide-eyed apprehension, and then go about business as usual. Not bad, by any means. But my mind kept on saying “what? Why aren’t you freaking out more?” Suffice it to say that many of them seemed extremely stoic.
Otherwise, the only other major thing I had trouble with in the book was the vague sense that . . .somewhere, somehow, I’d missed some small tidbits that would have helped explain the world and how it worked. It was a nagging feeling that dogged me through many sections of the book.
But again, these are small distractions. The character of Daisy is extremely likable. Strong, funny, definitely having that sense of “Real” so many authors strive for in their characters. And better than that, she’s beginning. This book is the start of something. Daisy isn’t incredibly powerful, in this book. She’s a young woman, still learning what exactly her job as essentially a supernatural cop entails. She is not a battle-hardened servant of a Norse goddess. Not yet.
Give this book a whirl, it’s quite a . .. . no, no no, I’m not going to say Daisy. The pun-gods would smite me for that.
Solid book with a great protagonist and a clever, thought-out story.
The Baron of Books