As Lie The Dead
Published 2010 423 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Evangeline Stone, a rogue bounty hunter, never asked for a world divided between darkness and light… or the power to die and live again in someone else’s borrowed body. After a murder plot meant to take her out leaves an entire race of shapeshifters nearly extinct, Evy is gnawed by guilt. So when one of the few survivors of the slaughter enlists her aid, she feels duty-bound to help – even though protecting a frail, pregnant shifter is the last thing Evy needs, especially with the world going to hell around her.
Amid weres, Halfies, gremlins, vamps – and increasingly outgunned humans – a war for supremacy is brewing. With shifters demanding justice, her superiors desperate to control her, and an assassin on her trail, Evy discovers a horrifying conspiracy. And she may be the only person in the world who can stop it – unless, of course, her own side gets her first.
As Lie The Dead is the second book in Kelly Meding’s urban fantasy series featuring resurrected supernatural bounty hunter Evy Stone. Events in As Lie The Dead start from the very second where Three Days to Dead (previous book by this author) finished and the plot continues to reveal aspects of the previous book’s storyline – so reading these books in order is recommended.
Three Days to Dead got the series off to a great start and did a good job of introducing readers to the story’s protagonist Evy Stone, her hidden paranormal world and her relationship with her ex-boss/would-be lover Wyatt. The story showed much promise for this new fantasy series, with the author neatly avoiding most of the usual pit-falls and clichés of the urban fantasy genre. As Lie The Dead doesn’t quite live up to that earlier potential and overall seems a poorer offering than readers may have expected as a follow up to Meding’s debut novel.
When I started reading this book I liked Evy Stone but not long into the story a number of her most likeable character traits had disappeared. Three Days To Dead gave us a realistically flawed, vulnerable character fighting to save her city from demons even though she was traumatised and afraid. As Lie The Dead sees Evy fully gain control of her new body and its magical powers (teleportation and miraculously swift healing) and at that point she’s transformed into the worst kind of Buffy knock-off. Upon hearing something she doesn’t like the sound of, she’ll take a swing at the speaker. She shouts her mouth off with little to back up her accusations except her gut feelings and pouts when people actually expect solid evidence.
Evy’s no longer working for the Triads (the employer who tried to kill her in the previous story) but still seems to be unable to actually stop interfering in Triad business. So now she’s running around saving the world without the benefit of a pay check. It’s no wonder the Triads response is to try and kill her again! She vows to take down the “brass” the shadowy figures running the Triads but nobody knows who they are so she’s stuck with foiling a plot get all the supernaturals in the city riled up against humans. Lurching from one confrontation to another the storyline unfolds in a random manner that is hard to follow. Yes, I know that a mystery/conspiracy plotline should be – well… mysterious – but the seemingly random plotting comes off as confusing and lacking coherency, rather than achieving a complex or convoluted mystery plotline.
The story seems to skirt around a “big issue”, namely it has xenophobic or racist overtones but doesn’t ever really come out and address the issue. It’s hard to tell if this is intentional or not. At one point it seems like the author is gearing up for an allegory on race relations but it never materialises. Evy constantly uses derogatory terms and language for the supernatural inhabitants (“Dregs”) of her city but she’s insulted when they apply a derogatory term to her: they called her “sape” for Homo sapiens. By this point in the story I was starting to dislike Evy so much “sape” would be mild by comparison to what I wanted to call her!
All this serves to make Evy rethink her attitude towards the Dregs but considering her past actions (of murdering the Dregs upon the orders of superiors she didn’t even know the identity of) she has a long way to go. At this point I was extremely irritated by the weak, “I was only following orders,” excuse that she uses to defend her actions. This defence didn’t work for the Nazis in the Nuremburg trials and still isn’t cutting much ice now either.
The fast paced plotting, governed by Evy’s three day deadline, that worked so well in Three Days to Dead is not so effective here. In As Lie The Dead we have a four day deadline but story’s pacing is overly frantic, literally leaving Evy with furious periods of activity punctuated by periods of unconsciousness that occurred whenever someone tried to kill her. The ultimate result is that I quickly lost interest in a story that was hard to follow, narrated by a character that I grew to increasingly dislike.
The main redeeming feature of this novel is its supporting cast of well-written and imaginatively drawn supernatural characters – in this case Phineas, who made an interesting addition to the story.
Now, you are probably thinking that this is a bad book but it isn’t. As Lie The Dead is actually very average for the urban fantasy genre. It’s fallen into a number of the traps that that genre has to offer and suffered as a result. If I had to give one piece of advice to any urban fantasy writer it’s this: Buffy is the archetype urban fantasy female protagonist; strong, talented and witty – the chosen one in every way. But she always worked with her team, her friends, admitted it when she was wrong, and while occasionally gung-ho was never a self-righteous twit.
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