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Agents of Hel by Jacqueline Carey

October 7, 2013

dart_medJacqueline Carey is probably most well-known for her Kushiel’s Legacy series.  These novels are set in a fictionalized medieval Europe and the protagonist is a divinely touched, masochistic courtesan.  It’s not exactly for everyone.  The books are dense and rich, but they can be a little daunting.  The first book, Kushiel’s Dart is 1015 pages in the mass market edition.  That’s a commitment.  But, if you’re into medieval fantasy I highly recommend the series.
Agents of Hel, on the other hand, is Carey’s new urban fantasy.  I should have mentioned it in my Alternate History post, but I forgot.  The set up is this:

darkThe town of Pemkowet is unusual; it is the hub of the American supernatural tourist industry.  Why?  Around the time of World War I Hel, the Norse goddess of the dead, moved her court from Scandinavia to Pemkowet and established Little Niflheim in a sunken city under the dunes outside Pemkowet.  This underworld made the sleepy Midwestern resort town attractive to supernatural entities (think Sunnydale and the Hellmouth from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer).
Daisy Johanssen works at the Pemkowet Police Department as a file clerk and their resident X-Files expert.  She has unique qualifications for the position; she is the daughter of an incubus and a human.  She can sense magic, but has no powers of her own.  Well, unless she claims her birthright as a hellspawn.  Of course, if she does that there is a chance that the Inviolate Wall keeping Heaven and Hell from starting Armageddon might fall.  So, she probably shouldn’t do that.   Daisy also has official sanction from Hel to act as her agent.  That means that she is the equivalent of a supernatural sheriff.  Felicia Day’s book club will be discussing both books this month.  Here are the Goodreads pages for Dark Currents and Autumn Bones.  
In Dark Currents, the peace of Pemkowet is shattered when a college student is drowned in the river. Signs point to the killer being a member of the eldritch community.  It doesn’t help that the victims parents are rabidly anti-magic and could cause trouble for the entire eldritch community.
Daisy has to work with her high school crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, to try to solve the murder.  She also has vampires, a ghoul motorcycle club, and occasional communications from her father to deal with.

autumnAutumn Bones is the second book in the series.  Daisy has successfully managed her first case, and gotten a nice, human boyfriend named Sinclair.  So, of course, everything has to go wrong.  Sinclair is from an old obeah family in Jamaica and they want him back.  He has turned away from their traditions and likes his new life in Pemkowet.  However, his family is willing to go to great lengths to get him back.  Their actions could rip the veil between the living and the dead, and Daisy only has until Halloween to set it right.  If she fails, she won’t only lose her position as Hel’s agent, she could lose everything she cares about.  Once the dead are free Pemkowet itself could be destroyed.

This series is really excellent.  The Norse mythology is fascinating and Carey does a good job with the romantic elements.  There are three men in Daisy’s orbit, but we don’t find ourselves in a Janet Evanovich situation with Daisy ping-ponging back and forth between them endlessly.  Granted, we are only on the second book, so the which-one-will-it-be tension could be stretched out over a few more books, but there is remarkably little angst.  These are not the Anita Blake books with Anita agonizing over Richard vs Jean-Claude for six books before eventually ending up with everyone and his brother/cousin/ex-college roommate.  Daisy is pretty aware of her feelings and the practical issues surrounding them.  I would put the Agents of Hel series much more on the level of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series.  They’re fun, they’re a little bit hot, but they are self-aware enough that there is refreshingly little angst.
I also feel that Jim Hines would approve of the covers.  Daisy isn’t contorting herself into implausible positions to show off all her assets at once.  She’s not wearing ridiculous shoes, or incredibly impractical outfits.  So please, give this series a shot.  The first book is out in paperback now from Roc and the sequel is in hardcover.

Just a friendly reminder, my Hounded giveaway is still running!  Enter now to win a copy of the first Iron Druid novel by Kevin Hearne!

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