For those of you who are interested, M.L.N. Hanover is also the prolific and best-selling author Daniel Abraham of the Long Price quartet and is part of the writing duo responsible for producing The Expanse series as James S.A Corey, see my review of Leviathan’s Wake here. I also reviewed the first book in The Black Sun’s Daughter, Unclean Spirits here. So when I came across Vicious Grace nestling on the shelves, it was obvious I’d scoop it up and take it home.
Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover and new-found confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all the above. At Grace Mrmorial Hospital in Chicago, something dark is stirring. Patients are going missing and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Jayné is primed to take on whatever is causing the nightmares – but the greatest danger lies much, much closer to home.
I’d enjoyed the first book and thought the series had the potential to be an interesting additional to the Urban Fantasy genre, but one book does not a series make. So does this third in the series still tick the boxes? Oh yes. The conflicted, angst-ridden heroine in the first book has matured into a strong, confident character who is far less wafty. I really enjoyed that progression. All too often I encounter protagonists who don’t appear particularly changed, either for good or ill, in a series. Hanover is far too smart and accomplished a writer to commit such an error – and he was also brave enough to make her less likeable in the first book. So despite the fact her life has been turned upside down as she and her team battle demons who parasitise humans in order to create as much chaos and misery has possible, she now has a tight unit around her to help. Or they are at the start of this particular adventure…
It’s a really smart move to give this appealing heroine, narrated in first person viewpoint, such a blinder as she embarks on yet another demonic-blasting adventure. And in a particular twist, one of the main beliefs she has held from the outset of her paranormal adventures is utterly undercut. If and when you read this book, you’ll know the moment when you get to it – I dropped the book, I was so shocked. And these days, that doesn’t happen all that often. But it is such a smart, clever move, that I sat and finished the book in one session – no way was I going anywhere until I knew how this all worked out.
The writing is clever throughout.I love that Jayné notices random people as she ventures into enemy territory, demonstrating her jittery attention to detail. It also put me on edge reading it. And the relationship upheavals that take place were completely convincing – even though I didn’t want them to happen. Hanover handles the pacing perfectly – but be warned, while there isn’t any of the steamy sex often associated with this genre, this would not be a book I’d be happy for my young teens to read. Hanover’s books often contain a dark thread of horror – and the scene in the bowels of the hospital during the denouement of the story had me swallowing hard. But the promise shown in Unclean Spirits has flowered into a memorable series that will be staying with me for some time to come. 10/10