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Mistral's Kiss
Laurel K. Hamilton
Ballantine, 212 pages

Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton is the author of two New York Times Best Seller series that mix mystery, fantasy, magic, horror and romance. Her Vampire Hunter novels from Ace books, featuring necromancer and crime investigator Anita Blake, began with Guilty Pleasures and continues with Incubus Dreams. Her other is about Fey princess, Merry Gentry, who is also a private investigator and began with Kiss of Shadows. She lives in St. Louis County Missouri with her husband, daughter, two pugs and two part-pug dogs and an ever-fluctuating number of fish.

Laurell K. Hamilton Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse and Circus of the Damned
SF Site Review: A Stroke of Midnight
SF Site Review: A Caress of Twilight
SF Site Review: A Kiss of Shadows
SF Site Review: A Stroke of Midnight
SF Site Review: Incubus Dreams
SF Site Interview: Laurell K. Hamilton
SF Site Review: Seduced by Moonlight
SF Site Review: A Caress of Twilight
SF Site Review: Narcissus In Chains
SF Site Review: Blue Moon
SF Site Review: Burnt Offerings
SF Site Review: Nightseer

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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"Arrows cut the night sky like black wounds across the stars, vanishing into the boiling black silk of the clouds. We waited in the winter night for screams to let us know the bolts had found their mark, but there was nothing but silence."
Mistral's Kiss When you've got a cash cow, milk it. That would seem to be the ethos behind this series. The books are getting significantly shorter with each iteration, and the plot more ephemeral. Mistral's Kiss once again sees Meredith Gentry -- Princess of the Unseelie Court -- attempting to screw her way to the top. For only by becoming pregnant with one of her many Sidhe lovers, can she be named heir to the Unseelie throne, presently occupied by her aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness.

This time around, the man who literally makes the earth move is Mistral, a sadistically inclined fey. Mistral, enjoys biting Meredith's breasts, and there are tens of pages of fairly graphic near porn, before developments that might be expected in a traditional dark fantasy novel occur. Even then the major event, involving Sholto, King of the Sluagh, culminates with another bout of sex. In some ways, this over-abundance worked like aversion therapy. The more Meredith's carnal activities were described in sticky detail, the less attention I paid. Instead, I found myself flicking on a few pages, in an effort to find the story, which at that point I hoped was still in there.

The immense frustration for readers who find enough sex in the real world, is that Laurell K. Hamilton can easily produce evocative imagery well within the wide parameters of the genre in which the Meredith Gentry series is placed. Yet time after time she chooses to have her lead character explore increasingly violent sexual fantasies, often at the expense of storytelling. As with previous titles, the characters and plot elements promise much, only to shy away from the more interesting questions.

Hamilton plays at being Nancy Friday, and the effect is to reduce most of the Sidhe, Goblins and Sluagh, to characters who seem to be there more for their dangly bits, than for anything magical. Meredith Gentry -- and I'm sure Hamilton herself -- would argue that the dangly bits are magical, but I could not shake the feeling that readers in agreement with them are mostly frustrated housewives or pubescent teenagers.

Sitting in the opposite corner, are the folk who would like to know much more about fine characters such as Andais, Doyle, Killing Frost, Sholto, and the history of the Fey in America. But they get precious little, as serious development flounders when the characters spend so much of their time hanging around in the hope of being next between Meredith's legs.

It isn't erotic. It isn't titillating. It isn't even innovative.

I finished Mistral's Kiss feeling somewhat swindled. I'd kept faith that the undoubted literary talent that Hamilton possesses would mean the series eventually returned to its roots. Instead, what I got was another load of fey sexploitation, masquerading as fantasy. If Hamilton wants to explore sexual themes at such length, no problem, let her write a full on erotic novel, and see if that is a bestseller. But for me, this was the novel that finally made me give up on the series, and on Hamilton as a writer of magically based fantasy works. Each to our own, but I don't want to read another word about breast biting, blow-jobs, multiple orgasms or thrusting bodies. Enough is enough.

Copyright © 2007 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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