Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: Darkness Calls

I'd honestly never heard of Marjorie M. Liu before, but with praise coming at me from all directions at the office, and as a New York Times bestselling author, I figured I should give her a chance. It was pretty convenient too when one of her books, Darkness Calls, showed up on the take-shelf near my cubicle.

"Demon hunter Maxine Kiss, inked with living tattoos, is on a mission to rescue the man she loves from a bloodthirsty army. To save him, Maxine has only one choice: to lose control-and release her own powers of darkness." [ (usa)]

In general, I like to read series like Liu's in order, starting at the very beginning. But I also find it incredible helpful to throw myself into the middle of a series on occasion, to check out the author's skills at world building for new readers when he or she has already established a solid world with solid rules in the previous x-number of books.Unfortunately, in this case, I was a tad disappointed.

I found Liu's voice to be engaging and sometimes full of dry humor (which I thoroughly enjoy). Her main characters were strong and had distinct voices--Maxine has a lot of potential as a heroine, for sure. So clearly, there are some great pieces here; I can see what makes her so popular. But I was disappointed, as I said, by the lack of clarification on a lot of points. Most of the book left me baffled and raising an eyebrow. I didn't know what the rules of the world were, how people related to each other, or even what exactly was going on. Even after finishing the book I don't think I got it.

I also struggled with the amount of description Liu used in her writing. Sometimes she hits the nail on the head--I can see exactly what she's trying to show me. But more often things were over-explained to the point where there were so many images in my mind that I couldn't see anything clearly. Even the demons that live as tattoos atop Maxine's skin (which is a really cool concept, by the way) were confusing. At times they seemed like eels. Others they were little goblin-like creatures. I just couldn't figure out what they were supposed to be and look like. As a result, I had a difficult time believing in their abilities, power, and significance. If I can't understand how something is happening, it's hard to actually believe it's happening. I do have to give her writing props though for her ability to navigate gory and dangerous action scenes--they were realistic, imaginative, and made my stomach lurch, just as intended.

The Last Word: A unique, creative, and complex concept that would be best served by more clarification and less assumption.

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