House of Cards
C. E. Murphy
Published 2008 408 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
A covenant broken. A hell unleashed...
New York City's only legal counsel to the fabled Old Races, Margrit Knight is level-headed in all matters extraordinary. But when she's summoned to negotiate a peace treaty among rival factions, her own mortal world threatens to fall apart.
Margrit's been in hot water before, but re-entering the underworld brings a new set of problems. And a new set of friends and enemies, including a ruthless vampire mobster, a dragonlord who won't take no for an answer, a band of subversive selkies... oh, and Alban Korund, the sexy gargoyle who got her into this mess - and whose granite-strong touch still haunts her every fantasy...
House of Cards is the second novel in C.E. Murphy’s urban fantasy Negotiator trilogy. I know it’s obvious but since this is the middle book in a trilogy new readers will want to start with Heart of Stone (the first book in this trilogy) and read the books in order.
House of Cards starts a couple of months on from where events in Heart of Stone ended. Readers see Margrit still running in the park at night watched and protected from afar by Alban, the gargoyle who first opened Margrit’s eyes to the extraordinary beings that walk amongst humanity hidden in plain sight.
Alban is determined to protect Margrit and keep her out of his supernatural world but this proves to be a futile hope on his part since other members of the Old Races wish to use Margrit to there own ends – not to mention the fact that Margrit herself is reluctant to forget the amazing beings that she has seen. She wants to embrace their world as much as Alban wants to keep her from it.
Unlike most urban fantasy heroines Margrit has no hidden (or underrated) magical powers; she isn’t hiding a secret supernatural heritage, she’s not super strong and doesn’t carry a sharp stake or a big gun. Margrit is a lawyer – and before you get carried away by the idea of Buffy meets Perry Mason – House of Cards isn’t a supernatural courtroom drama either. So what is it? Well, it’s fairly hard to describe without making it sound dull, which I wouldn’t want to do since this book is actually rather good. The best way I can describe it is that it’s about an intelligent, passionate young woman who has her eyes opened to a whole new world and then has to carve a place for herself in it while re-examining all that she thought she knew about herself and what she wanted from her life.
The fantasy world of the Negotiator trilogy is well thought out and while the Old Races are “supernatural” beings they are of natural rather than magical origin. Meaning that all beings, the vampires, djinn, dragons, gargoyles and selkies, are all inhabitants of the same earth as humans – only they have chosen to hide there extraordinary abilities for fear of being hunted to extinction by the very people that share their lands. The worst crimes known to the Old Races after murdering another member of the Old Races (humans don’t count as murder!) are interbreeding with humans and revealing their presence to humans. These old antiquated laws carry the highest penalty (exile) and are a central part of the complex mystery plot that drives this story forward.
As with Heart of Stone the plot is a little slow to get moving at the start of the story and the book is perhaps a fraction too long but the last 120 pages or so of House of Cards crack along at a great pace - guaranteeing a racing finish if not a racing start. Well realized characters and a strong mystery plotline combined with plenty of action and just the right touch of romance will keep readers hooked beyond the final pages of House of Cards – setting up Hands of Flame (the final book in this trilogy) as compulsory reading for series fans.
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