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A Caress of Twilight
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine Books, 326 pages

Art: David Stevenson
A Caress of Twilight
Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton has never wanted to do anything but write, so she earned an English degree. A brief fling with wanting to be Jane Goodall earned her a biology degree as well. She met her husband, a confirmed reader of fantasy and science fiction, at college.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Narcissus In Chains
SF Site Review: Blue Moon
SF Site Review: Burnt Offerings
SF Site Review: Nightseer
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site
Laurell K. Hamilton Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Merry Gentry is more than just an employee of a detective agency. She is also Princess Merideth NicEssus, heir to the Unseelie throne. She'll be able to claim the title of queen only if she is able to become pregnant... and stay alive long enough to give birth. She is surrounded by sidhe guards, all of whom are also prospective fathers. The one who gives her a child wins her hand, and a place of power. Things become more complicated when she is asked by an exiled member of the seelie court to help her in a fertility rite, and turn worse when Merry discovers that someone has unleashed a terrible plague of ghosts that murders huge groups of people at a time.

From the moment you read the first page of A Caress of Twilight, and see Merry slip from a bed occupied by two of the fae guards, it sets the tone for the whole book. The theme is sex: sexual politics, sexual power. Merry loves one of her guards in particular, but that doesn't matter, she has to get pregnant, or her rival for the throne will have her and her allies killed. Sexual politics also come into play in many of her dealings with other members of the fae and demi-fae, where she has her handsome guards around her to show her own power, or when she has to do some physical thing to generate the power to keep one of her allies from fading. It seems that the whole of the court deal in this type of politicking, for whenever we see a member of the fae through Merry's mirror (how they communicate) many times it at least gets mentioned. The sexual power is evident in both magical rites, where sex is used to generate magic, and in binding people to her. There are several scenes where a sexual act of some sort is used to strengthen or create alliances. It is simple -- sex is the way to both power and magic. It is also the main cultural focus of the fae, and about 80% of the book, which is why I seem to be going on and on about it. Laurell K. Hamilton has a very interesting culture pulled from myth. It is well-drawn, the Seelie and Unseelie are day and night, but day isn't nearly so pure as it would like to think, and night is not absolute darkness. We learn a bit of it, and the glimpses we see are intriguing. I would have liked to seen a bit more. For instance Yule is mentioned as coming up... I would have loved to have seen how the Unseelie court celebrates Yule, or even how Merideth and her cadre celebrate it. I think I would have liked just something else about the fae, because Hamilton seems to have a really wondrous imagination. To be fair, I didn't get a chance to read A Kiss of Shadows, so maybe the lack is because she didn't want to repeat what she'd already done.

The cast of characters is even more interesting. Merry is a neat character, savvy, part human and part fae. She is able to translate for us the differences between our world and the world of the sidhe. There is Frost, who she loves, silver haired and scarred inside, and Rhys, who laughs easily, but hides a dark secret under his light facade. There is also Doyle, or the Darkness, who is Merry's best advisor, and who only recently has begun sharing her bed as well as her plans. We learn a bit more about these and some of the other guards, little suggestions, such as the fact that Rhys was one the God of Death that intrigued me and made me want to know more.

It is hard, to say what bothered me about A Caress of Twilight. It was an easy read in that I was engaged fully in the lives of these fae, and wanted to know what would happen. I think that when Hamilton made it obvious that Merry loved Frost, she sort of lost me. I am geared so that, when I read anything where romance is even slightly involved, (and it is slight, here) I then want the two people who love each other to be together exclusively. I don't like to see her sleeping around with every single creature on the block. Also, she makes her affections for Frost evident, but then it becomes an afterthought that is mentioned here and there... a thought that is easily forgotten as she lusts for her other guards. I suppose that this is silly... Hamilton has created rules for this universe, and I'd no doubt be griping if she broke them. Sex is so central to the culture and to this story that really, Merry has no choice in the matter. Sex is not always for love. It is a binding, and Merry needs to bind these people to her, or everything she has worked for may be lost.

There are several unsolved items at the end of A Caress of Twilight, so I feel confident that there will be a sequel. She has gotten me curious enough that I'll probably seek it out. Not having read A Kiss of Shadows didn't spoil reading this book in the least for me, and if you are looking for a sensual tale of the fae with a bit of mystery and adventure, then this book might be the perfect read.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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