28 March 2011

Book Review Number 61: Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman



I picked up this book on the recommendation of my friend Paul over at Blog, Jvstin Style. Paul has had good and bad reading experiences with urban fantasy and decided to give this book a try.  It was one of his good experiences and he gave it very glowing reviews.  Knowing that Paul and my tastes run somewhat similar, though he's more of a sci-fi junkie than I am and I'm more of an urban fantasy junkie than he is, I knew it would be one worth trying.  I'd been meaning to pick up one of her other series (The Retrievers, but it's one of the many that never quite got into my library requesting queue.

Bonnie Torres is a young woman, fresh out of college and no job prospects ahead of her.  She doesn't have to worry about money - her guardian, J, is quite well off.  But she hates being dependent on him and wants to get out on her own.  As interview after interview results in no job offers, she despairs more.  It's not like she can get an office job somewhere - Talent current (magic for the rest of us) and electronics don't always mesh too well.

Then a mysterious offer comes her way.  There's no name and no details, just a time and a location.  And Bonnie decides to take a chance.  The next day, she arrives to find 4 or 5 others sitting quietly in a waiting room.  Time ticks by and some small talk is made, until Bonnie is tired of waiting.  She goes to the office door they can see from the room they're in and, when she tries to open it, it swings open to reveal a dead body.  That begins the strangest job interview of her life.

Bonnie, and the rest of the people waiting in the office, become the newest (and first) members of PUPI - Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigators.  The job is a combination of inventive techniques and making things up as they go along.  Their bosses, known collectively in Bonnie's mind as "The Guys," show them a lot of techniques to magically process a crime scene.  But it's still a field that no one has ever really tried before, so there's bound to be some problems.

Including people that want them to fail.  PUPI very firmly accents the "unaffiliated" part of their name - regardless of who is requesting their assistance, whether it be someone high in the Council hierarchy (Council being the controlled, "this is how things are done" Talent) or the lowest lonejack (the drifters and the dreamers and those who don't want to be affiliated with the Council).  It's the facts that matter, not who is paying them. And from the start, little things start going wrong as someone tries to drive them out of business.

Their first case comes from a high profile member of the Council who is convinced that her parents' supposed suicide was actually murder.  The team takes the case and it really stretches their training, inventiveness and other skills.  Not to mention the attempts on their lives.

This was a fantastic first book of a series.  The reader gets a chance to meet all the players in PUPI, as well as the one person most important to Bonnie, her mentor J.  As things are going wrong in the office, back when the characters were blaming gremlins, a little tingle in the back of my mind kept saying, "It's a whole lot more than that!"  The book is a very solid paranormal novel, with wonderful explanations of what makes this world different from our own.  And the end of the book leaves enough of a teaser to make the reader want the next novel, Pack of Lies (Luna Books), in their hands now.

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