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I Belong

Review: Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover

Title: Unclean Spirits

Author: M.L.N. Hanover

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: The Black Sun’s Daughter (Book 1)

Publication Date: December 2, 2008

Format: Paperback, 357 Pages

ISBN-10: 1416575979 (Pocket Books)

ISBN-13: 9781416575979 (Pocket Books)

Reviewed by: Rachael


In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can’t always play by the rules.

Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn’t quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers — and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.

Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric’s heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means — magical or mundane — so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.

Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions — Aubrey, Eric’s devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities — Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she’ll have to learn the new rules fast — or break them completely…

Quick & Dirty: A unique world with interesting and likable characters.

Opening Sentence: It was raining in Denver the night Eric Heller died.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Unclean Spirits is the first book in M.L.N. Hanover’s series, The Black Sun’s Daughter. M.L.N. Hanover is just one of the pseudonyms for science fiction/fantasy author, Daniel Abraham.

Jayne Heller’s uncle dies and leaves her with a fortune and his unbelievable work as a paranormal hunter. She is thrown into this chaotic life, hunting riders and she takes it all in and keeps on going. We see her struggle and make monumental mistakes and that makes her a more believable and approachable character. She falls in with a rag tag group that band together to complete her uncle’s last quest and to get revenge for his death. We watch her grow into a stronger person as she learns to stand up and take control. I look forward to seeing her and her group come into their own as the series progresses.

I was really excited to read Unclean Spirits, from the description it sounded like it would be a great read. I was disappointed that I had such a hard time becoming invested in the story and I literality had to make myself continue reading in the beginning. Something was just off. There was plenty of action and fighting but it wasn’t believable to me. Hanover didn’t take the time to hash out and explain the magical aspects of the fights, they just happen, leaving me feeling disconnected. There was too much explanation of the mundane tasks such as eating and showering and it seemed that this was being used to create filler space around the repetitious planning the group did (don’t get me wrong it was nice to see some mundane tasks since we usually don’t get this but there is a certain point when you want to say enough already). I think that this time could have been better utilized by explaining more how the characters learned and used these magical powers. I am glad that I kept plugging along because toward the end of the book I was finally drawn in and didn’t want to put the book down.

Hanover created and brought to life a very intriguing and unique world. It is a superb setting for an urban fantasy with a new twist to what most have become used to as common paranormal creatures. It was because of this premise that I stuck with the book. In his world the paranormal creatures are riders, spiritual parasites that cross over from an abstract world that is parallel to the real one, to possess people. There are a variety of different riders, which include vampires, werewolves and demons. All of which have some degree of magical powers.

It is clear that Hanover spent a lot of time planning and developing such an elaborate world but he did not seem to put as much effort into the characters. They all seemed kind of flat. I liked them all well enough, but a connection was just missing. I knew Jayne and Aubrey had chemistry only because I was told that they did, I never actually felt it. I loved Midian with his quick and sarcastic humor. It would have been nice to know more about the characters, to feel more connected to them.

I am happy that I stuck it out and completed Unclean Spirits. The beginning was slow but the ending pulled it together and made it a worthwhile read. I see so much potential with the story line, characters and the unique premise of the world that I am looking forward to reading Darker Angels.

Notable Scene:

What the fuck was he sitting next to?

As casually as he could, he brought a hand to his mouth. He crushed the fresh sage and peppermint leaves in the cuff and breathed in the scent. His mind clicked into trance, the aroma acting as trigger. His eyes felt like they’d been washed clean. Everything around him was intensely real, the edges sharp, the textures vibrant. He could hear the individual raindrops striking the car. He felt each fiber of his shirt pressing against his skin. And the glamour fell away from the others. The ink of their markings seemed to well up from inside them like blood from a cut. The driver was entirely bald, labyrinthine tattoos rising from his collar and crawling up over his ears. The two beside Eric were just as marked, their faces covered with symbols and sigils.

It had been a setup from the start. The contact, the face-down at the bar, the creosote breath. There were no gangbangers. No loupine.

One of them glanced at Eric.

“He knows,” the guard said.

The big sonofabitch in the front was still a big sonofabitch. He turned, looking over his shoulder. His lips were black, his eyes set in a tangle of something half Arabic script, half spiderweb.

“Mr. Heller,” he said, as if they were meeting for the first time. His voice was low as tires against asphalt. With his senses scraped raw by the cantrip, Eric could feel the man’s breath on his skin.

“This isn’t what you boys think it is,” Eric said.

We know what you’ve been doing, Mr. Heller,” the other man said. “It stops tonight. It stops now.”

With a despairing cry, Eric went for his gun.

The Black Sun’s Daughter Series:

1. Unclean Spirits

2. Darker Angels

3. Vicious Grace

4. Killing Rites

FTC Advisory: Pocket Books provided me with a copy of Unclean Spirits.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.

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