Monday, June 23, 2008

Nightkeepers, by Jessica Andersen – Review

“It’s a small world… but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.” –Steven Wright.

Jessica Andersen (Doc Jess, to us slightly smug insiders) and JR Ward are critique partners and share an editor. Nightkeepers also shared its release date with Lover Enshrined. I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t become something of a zombie fangirl over at JR Ward’s message boards. I also wouldn’t have found her very impressive website. I’m sure I wouldn’t have found her book, since Borders’ only had one lone copy tucked back in the “A”s on its release day (I talked them into bringing a stack out for the New Fiction table, like a good zombie).

So once the buzz from Lover Enshrined faded a little, I dove into Nightkeepers. The premise is a little out there, but no more so than most of the paranormal stuff I’ve been reading lately. The mythology is a lot less familiar – I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. I do enjoy the “in joke” when I get the references; then again, maybe my horizons just need to be broadened.

If you weren’t looking for similarities to Ward’s books, you probably wouldn’t notice any. Some of the smart-ass humor rings familiar bells, and Anderson’s books are longer than the typical contemporary, though not as chunky as Ward’s. The pacing and action scenes might feel a little similar in rhythm, but make no mistake, these are unique stories and unique characters.

I’d like to give it an unconditional “HELL YEAH, if you like JR Ward, you’ll love Doc Jess”. However… it’s a little more conditional than that. My tepid response here might be my own fault though, so I’ll tell you what happened and let you be the judge.

I started reading on Wednesday evening. It was a busy week though, and I didn’t get a lot of time to read. Thursday I spent the majority of the evening getting packed for a campout with a troop of first-timer Brownie Girl Scouts. Once I had that situation under control, I settled down for a session with Nightkeepers.

It *really* sucked me in. The world-building is expertly done; its internal rules laid out smoothly and consistently without falling into a lecture-y sandtrap. The hero will get your pulse going (gotta love an Alpha named “Strike”); the heroine is likeable and has believable reactions to unbelievable situations. The bad guys rate very high on the oh-shit-creepy scale. Great sexual tension and nicely executed erotic scenes. I blazed through about 9/10s of the book.

But then I got sleepy. I couldn’t finish it, with maybe 30 or 40 pages to go. And I had that frickincampout the following weekend. I took the book with me to work on Friday, but didn’t get a chance to read it at lunch, and had ZERO time to sneak in any reading that evening, since the intrepid Brownie troop departed from my house shortly after I got home from work. In short, I lost momentum.

It was a busy weekend, what with the knot-tying and hiking and s’mores and homesick seven-year-olds. Still, I found my thoughts on Nightkeepers every now and then, wishing I had finished it and looking forward to getting back to it.

And sadly, I was disappointed in the end. The Big Giant Climactic Scene just… didn’t do it for me. My suspended disbelief hit the ground with a thunk (maybe I used the wrong knot). Maybe it was a little too woo-woo (that’s the technical literary term, I believe); or the specific use of magic in that scene wasn’t set up well enough for me.

But I really wish I had finished it before that campout. Because I think that the literatus-interruptus* was the main factor in my dissatisfaction. So my rec? Check out the webpage and the excerpts. If you’re intrigued, definitely pick it up. Just don’t stop in the wrong place for three days.


*I made that up.


Sayuri said...

I had the same lukewarm reaction to this book but I enjoyed it enough that I will give the next one a go. My main issue was Strike. he just didn't do it for me at all. I'm not a goatee and long hair kinda gal.

I found myself to be much more interested in the secondary characters. Jox & Hannah, Sven and his winnikin, ALex and Richard.

Plus there was a lot of worldbuildong which I can forgive but it felt kinda dry.

I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied with no real reason why. WHich is a shame cause Doc Jess rocks.

Perhaps I am just all series-ed out? I have too many on the go, it's all getting to be too much.

Nicola O. said...

Can I tell you one of the #1 irritations about this book? It's so trivial it's embarrassing that it bugged me so much, but...winnikin??? this word "felt" so wrong, every time I read it it bugged. Like a cross between Winnie the Pooh and a Webkin. Or one of those deeply embarrassing pet names, like schnookiekins or something.

Sayuri said...

Hahaha. I know, and it was ALWAYS in italics.

My main irratation was there was so many teasers. Too many characters were introduced in this first book. I was like...'Wha...right who was the snake guy again? Richard, he's the one who's winnikin dies right? Is he a winnikin or a Nightkeeper?'

But I think I have it all straight in the brain now.


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