So… several months ago I had a discussion with my local library: I’d picked up an eReader, basing my choice on its ability to check out their ebooks (if I’d waited a few weeks, I could’ve gotten a Kindle, but…). Lo and behold, I soon found out that the ebooks at my library are dominated, to the tune of about 75%, by a mix of kid’s books (I approve of children learning to read) and romance novels - especially VampRom. I was distraught. I complained. I was told, “That’s what people want.” Not me, I grumbled.
Never let it be said I won’t try something new. That’s how I ended up checking out an ecopy of The Taken (“Book One of the Celestial Blues”) by Vicki Pettersson. And now I think I understand the popularity…
Griffin Shaw is an angel. Not a cloud-floaty, harp-strummy angel; a Centurion. His job is to TAKE souls who’ve been ripped from life in an untimely manner and help them “incubate” in some sort of limbo before entering the Everlast to live with God. He used to be alive himself, but he and his beloved wife Evie were murdered in their native Las Vegas fifty years back. Like all murdered souls, Grif can’t remember what happened. Somehow (no explanation) he got promoted from lost soul to Centurion, earned a few supernatural powers and some rad black wings, and a list of souls to take. He blew it taking Nicole Rockwell, though, and for that he got sent back to life. Sent back, still wearing his favorite 1960s suit and skinny-brim fedora.
As luck would have it, the suddenly alive again hooks up with the rockabilly (they like Elvis-era stuff and cover their skin with tattoos like Millennials) Kit Craig, who just figures he’s a new ‘billy she hadn’t met before. Grif’s punishment for blowing the Rockwell Take is to stay with Craig, alive, until she’d murdered (which should be any day now).
Shaw and Craig, naturally, fall in lust. They also trip over a massive prostitution slash white-slavery slash child-molestation racket; the knowledge of which gets them in a lot of hot water. Since Shaw is in lust, he doesn’t want to Take Craig, which greatly peeves the bosses in… the Everlast.
Of course, everything will come out all right: after all, it is Book One.
Vicki Pettersson is the New York Times best-selling author of the “Signs of the Zodiac” series (The Scent of Shadows, The Taste of Night), none of which I’ve ever heard of, much less read. Taken is, as advertised, a new series – a series she calls “supernatural noir mystery” instead of “urban fantasy,” whatever that means. It’s still a bodice-ripper dressed up with supernatural beings. Only this time, they’re angels instead of vampires or werewolves. And here I thought angels were out: goes to show what I know…
Pettersson’s created her own universe; or rather her own version of the afterlife; just as SciFi authors need to. She’s come up with an unusual trinity of angelic hosts and a different approach to “going to the light.” My guess is that her version of the afterlife will not sit well with fundamentalists, for her hero says “Nah, there is no hell. Mortals who prove themselves unfit for Paradise must join the Third.” Never mind that his description of “the Third” sounds a lot like parts of Dante’s Inferno, that ain’t gonna work for certain people. Of course, given the book’s quite heavy-handed treatment of the LDS (pretty much Mormon-bashing, IYAM), perhaps it will win a few back.
The heavy dose of romance notwithstanding (the phrases “throbbing loins” and “mighty thews” never appear, though “Darling” does), The Taken is decidedly lightweight. Personally, my major complaint with building a series around supernatural heroes/heroines is the reliance on their powers to solve problems – sort of a never-ending deus ex machina plot solution. I prefer using brains, and I suppose I’m just not willing to suspend so much disbelief. In all honesty, though, this one’s a pretty light-weight plot to begin with. It also peeved me that the main character came back to Earth desperate to find out who murdered his beloved Evie but within three days was doing the horizontal bop with his charge (whose skin is lily-white and un-tattooed: is she certain she’s a rockabilly?). Nope, just didn’t work for me – and part of it’s because this just isn’t very good fiction.
As an aside: after reading The Taken, I might have figured out why such books are so popular in certain quarters:, Every woman is strong and heroic, no matter what blows life has dealt her; but except for the hero (and a single cop who barely wanders into the text), the male characters are vicious, slavering beasts: I don’t remember when I’ve seen so clear an example of misandry. About the only thing I’ve ever seen with equal disdain for the female of the species has been letters to “Penthouse Forum.” And we all know (certain) men devour “Penthouse Forum”…
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