I really love the Dirk & Steele series by Marjorie Liu. I even love the name “Dirk & Steele,” because, come on—how can you not? If you’re going to go there, you might as well go big (and hard and phallic-shaped). In Liu’s world, the “Others” among us include shapeshifters plus folks with a multitude of paranormal abilities: mind-reading, healing, metal forming, genies, that thing where you can sense something about an object by touching it (which has a name but I can’t remember it), a very interesting talent (Blue) for controlling electrical devices… all kinds of cool stuff. As might be expected, there is the Justice League— err, I mean, Dirk & Steele – for wearing the white hats, and the ominously-named Consortium, organized to exploit these talented folks, to the potential End of The World As We Know It. I was delighted to learn that Liu’s early writing career included a couple of X-Men titles – how cool is that for a cross-over to romance?
The Last Twilight delivers high adventure in an exotic, dangerous locale; it’s a densely-plotted, fast-paced, high-stakes move/counter-move story. The main character of Dr. Rikki Kinn is wonderfully different from our typical romance heroines – she’s smart and tough as hell, and while we eventually uncover her vulnerabilities, Liu manages to avoid making her seem like a stereotypical heart-of-gold character. Amiri’s human form is Nigerian, so this also qualifies as a multi-racial romance, although what with the shapeshifting and the particular evilness of the bad guys, that hurdle is pretty small potatoes in their relationship. I found that minimalist approach rather appealing.
Unfortunately though, I thought this book didn’t quite live up to expectations. Amiri, the hero, just didn’t quite click for me – I think that his voice just wasn’t quite right; it seemed a little too fragmented and dreamy. (There, I’ve used up my quota of “quites” for this piece.) There is a big plot point that I either missed or turns out to be a hole: without spoiling much, it turns out that the Bad Guys are after Kinn for her DNA, but I never did figure out what was supposed to be so amazing about her that the Bad Guys moved mountains (figuratively) and killed hundreds or thousands of people trying to get to her. I sped through to the end but this dangling thread left me thinking “Whuh--?”. I also got a little tired of waiting to find out what caused Kinn's scarring -- they payoff was all it was built up to be, I think, but (and you've seen this from me before) I can only take so many references to some awful event/secret before you need to tell me what it is.
If you haven’t checked out Dirk and Steele yet, do so at first opportunity. Reading them in order is good but not completely necessary—I haven’t been. My favorites so far have been Tiger Eye (#1) and Soul Song (#6). If you already like the series, you'll probably like this one just fine-- but if you haven't read any yet, do try at least one of my faves before you make up your mind.