Saturday, 6 July 2013

Review: Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies
Secrets and Lies by Christine Amsden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one nudged over the four-and-a-half-star threshold because of a moment near the end which made me say "Yes!" aloud and pump my fist on behalf of the protagonist.

Cassie Scot is more than worthy to stand beside Kitty Norville, Joanne Walker or Mercy Thompson in the urban fantasy genre. She's smart. In fact, she's primarily smart. She doesn't have any supernatural advantage going on, and is surrounded by people who do. She isn't big and strong and kickass; she's been a sherrif's deputy and can handle herself, but she's an average-sized young woman without any unusual physical prowess, and when it all goes down, what she can do physically against much stronger opponents is not what's going to tip the balance. She has to be smart in order to survive.

She does more than survive. She triumphs. Not that everything is all rosy at the end of the book; far from it. The immediate problem is resolved, yes, but the one that carries on in an arc throughout the series is very much not. (That's the way to write a series, if anyone was wondering.)

You do need to start from the first book. There's not much in the way of recap to remind you who these people are and why they're all fighting, and the situation at the start of this book is set up in Book 1.

It's a heck of a situation, though. Cassie owes her childhood friend/teenage crush/son of her father's greatest enemy a life debt, which gives him power over her - the kind of power which means she's magically compelled to obey his orders. The problem is that she's an independent-minded young woman, and while she would like a relationship with him, she's not prepared to have one in which he has all the power.

This is great. It's the start of a theme of the exploitation of women as chattels which gets developed from multiple different angles throughout the book. The magical community has held on to 19th-century thinking into the 21st century, and Cassie is having none of it. It's an excellent theme, the more so because of the multi-angled exploration and the way in which it's both a matter of principle and also deeply personal to the protagonist (and not just in her own situation).

My favourite kind of protagonist takes personal risks, accepts personal costs and overcomes their own limitations in order to act decisively and effectively, out of principle, in a worthy cause, which also has personal significance involving those they love. In this book, Cassie Scot ticks every one of those boxes, which is why I cheered for her.

I'm delighted to hear that the remaining two books in the series are already written. They can't come fast enough for me.

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