Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Living with the Dead by Kelley Armstrong

This book is number 9 in a series about various women with supernatural powers. Some characters get at minimum brief mentions in books revolving around others, but each story is pretty much stand-alone and can be read independently. This book differs from others in the series in that its protagonist is a regular person with no super-powers---and I'm not sure that character choice was the wisest one to make.

Robyn Peltier is a recently widowed publicist who is drowning her grief by working for a Paris Hilton type starlet named Portia Kane. When Portia gets murdered while out on the town with Robyn, Robyn gets caught up in a power struggle between a supernatural commune and a bunch of other people. Fortunately, her best friend happens to be a half-demon with a werewolf boyfriend.

The problem for me was that much of the appeal in the other books was watching a woman with super-powers dealing with the super-powers directly: Elena in 'Bitten' learns to control her werewolf powers and deal with the special challenges of being the only female werewolf in her 'pack.' Savannah in Dime Store Magic is only a teenager and her powers are still emerging. And Robyn? She's human. She has a brief moment of shock when she learns that demons are real, then seems to decide she'd rather not know and leaves Hope to deal with the demon stuff in the few chapters not involving her. It doesn't quite work for me.

I also found that this story dealt much more with supernatural 'politics' than the other books did. The main villain, Adele, is trying to leave the cult-like 'kumpania' who employs her and helps her manage her powers. And then there is the 'cabal' with whom she negotiates, and the 'council' to which Hope and Karl belong to. It started to bog the story down, and frankly, I didn't care that much. Armstrong is better when she focuses on the characters, then on the story---not so much on the world-building.

I'll keep an eye out for others in the series, but I am not sure this particular installment did it for me, and I regret that I paid for it, especially at such an inflated hard-back price. Armstrong is going on my 'get it from the library' list. We'll see if subsequent installments get her off of it.

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