To make up for the disaster that reading Destiny kills
over the course of this past week was, today I finally opened up Death's Daughter
by Amber Benson...and I didn't put it down (except when I played a little T-ball with the kiddo and took him out to dinner, and other motherly things). I can be a fast reader, but it's rare I will finish a book in a day. It has to be really compelling to make me want to keep reading instead of, say, taking breaks to do my own writing (haha) or playing my PSP. That ought to tell you right away that I enjoyed it.
If the name Amber Benson sounds familiar to you it's probably because you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. She played Tara Maclay, Willow's lover and fellow witch for roughly three seasons. Well, now the actress and director is also a published author. This isn't her first foray into writing by far, and it shows. Death's Daughter
sucked me right in and really managed to blow me away plot-wise.
In the first chapter we're introduced to Calliope Reaper-Jones. By day she's an assistant to the Vice President of Sales at House and Yard, Inc., a job we are assured that is every bit as "glamarous" as it sounds. By night she's...well, a single woman in New York City who is being set-up on a blind date by her neighbor/friend Patience. All that changes when her Forgetting Charm she put on herself three years prior is broken in the form of a vegan chocolate cupcake that was bespelled by her father's Executive Assistant, a faun named Jarvis (whose last name you'll have to read the book to find out because it takes away the fun if I tell you). It's then that Calliope remembers why she put the charm on herself in the first place, after all would you want to remember that you were Death's - the
Still reeling from suddenly remembering who she is, Jarvis delivers another blow and informs Calliope that her father has been kidnapped and no one can seem to find him. When she returns home, her mother and a family friend inform her that since her older sister was kidnapped along with the rest of the company's Board, and her younger sister is still a minor, Calliope must take on her father's job until they can find him. Oh, and if she doesn't take his job, they'll give the job to someone else and rescind her family's immortality, which will be a death sentence to her father. Despite a desire to be a mortal herself, Calliope obviously doesn't want her father and sister to be killed. She agrees to help only to find out that she must complete three tasks in order to get the job, the first of which is retrieving one of Cerberus's puppies from the North Gates of Hell and it only gets "better" from there.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I admit the writing style was a bit jarring to me. It was written the first person, a style I'm used to, but the language was casual. There were many "gottas" and "kindas," something I'm really not used to seeing in published fiction unless it's dialogue. However, once I got past it, it proved rather a great way to demonstrate Calliope's voice and differentiate her from everyone she encountered.
There were a couple of jabs about fat people, women specifically that irked me as a plus-sized gal.
I say it was a he, but that was only a hypothesis. I just could not imagine any self-respecting female - monster or not - ever getting as pudgy as this thing was. (Page 5)
Why the woman [her boss] wanted a nonfat decaf latte was beyond me. The whole office knew it was ordered for appearances only, that she probably dumped the whole hting in the potted plant behind her desk as soon as I had closed the door in favor of whatever calorie-laden goodies she had stashed in her desk drawer. (Page 17)
Because all overweight women have no self-respect and can't help but stuff their faces with fattening goodies. </sarcasm> I get that not many people are on the whole "fat acceptance" bandwagon, and that it probably would never jump out at anyone who hasn't struggled with weight issues, so this is more of a personal critique of mine than harsh criticism, and I guess, a little form of mini-activism. It stings a little to see stereotypes repeated, even if I allow that it's from a realistic character who does have some flaws. I suppose I hear it/read it so much that it grates just that much, and you do wonder which of the words on the page are the author's own feelings and which are the character's. That being said, there are a couple of moments when my misgivings about these two lines were soothed a little. At one point, while shopping for a dress for her blind date, Calliope finds herself wishing she could be twenty pounds heavier
so she could fit into the perfect date dress on the sales rack, proving that sometimes a bit more/wider curves can be a good thing. Another moment comes two pages after the "calorie-laden goodies" line:
"Callie, I'm going out. Hold all my calls," a voice said from behind me.
I turned to find Hy standing in the doorway of her office wearing a rather large Diane von Furstenberg knock-off wrap dress and pointy little black boots. She had her long honey blond hair pulled back off her face, accentuating her large blue eyes and pouty, cupid-bow mouth.
She was a gorgeous size twenty, and reasonably proud of it. (Page 19)
Not perfect, but "gorgeous size twenty" were not words I was expecting after the previous couple of lines. That was a nice little boost, and after that, there weren't anymore jabs that I can recall, and it proved to me that the little barbs were in all likelihood unintentional. I just have to take the moments to educate where I find them.
OK, stepping off this soap-box I seem to have found myself on and getting on with it.
I was a bit thrown by some of the descriptions of designer clothing. Of course this is coming from a woman who only knows the shoe brands Nike and Reebok and who probably couldn't tell Gucci from Martha Stewart. (Wait, does she even have a clothing line, or is just household stuff? You see what I mean? I'm clueless.) However, given that Calliope was raised in a way that is the very definition of privileged, I can understand exactly why she would have this knowledge, and I suppose if I had such an income I might know a bit more about shopping at Saks. ...Nah, who am I kidding?
Other than that, the story was great, and the plot advanced at a good pace. I could feel Calliope's frustration at being constantly out of the loop, and her genuine amazement at her younger sister Clio's genius-level IQ. Her descriptions of various parts of Hell were compelling and painted the picture nicely (or not so nicely, depending on your perspective). Her characterization of Kali might annoy pagans I know who are acquainted with Her, but when placed in context of Calliope's world, Kali's personality as Benson wrote her certainly fits. And can I just say I loved, loved, loved the Devil in this book? I can? OK, I will say it. Repeatedly even. I even liked her version of God, which says a lot as a polytheist who tends to cringe ever so slightly when it comes to the whole God/Devil deal. Oh, and the Big Reveal(TM)? Totally caught me by surprise and floored me, though I was only slightly off the mark for one of the people involved.
I know that I'll probably re-read Death's Daughter
at some point, albeit at a slower pace so I can really savor and enjoy it. (And after I finish Stephen Brust's Taltos
novels to appease the boyfriend.) I thought at first I might be disappointed, but all my expectations were blown away and Death's Daughter
will certainly get my recommendation. Heck, I might try to goad the boyfriend into reading it even if it may not be his style.
To sum up: I loved it.