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A Stroke of Midnight
Laurel K. Hamilton
Ballantine Books, 369 pages

A Stroke of Midnight
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 pug and two part pug dogs and an ever-fluctuating number of fish.

Laurell K. Hamilton Website
ISFDB Bibliography
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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'My body convulsed around them, and I felt their bodies convulse together. Then I could feel them again, two men inside me. And they thrust inside one last time, and they came again. It brought me screaming, tearing at their bodies. Their screams echoed mine.'
The fourth book in the Meredith Gentry series is a curious mixture. I've no doubt that many of the readers who have made Laurell K. Hamilton a New York Times bestselling author will lap this one up, but for those who are interested primarily in a good read, the reception might not be so warm. As with much of Hamilton's more recent work, the basis of a cracking story is marred, possibly ruined, by page after page of sex. Don't get me wrong, my objection is nothing to do with prudishness or morality. Love and lust can often take centre stage, even in a fantasy novel, and dramatically enhance the plot. Done right -- on the page as in real life -- the result can be unforgettable. The problem is that Hamilton uses the sex as a feeble plot device, over and over again. It might be great if you're a spotty teen in need of a cheap thrill, but not so clever when presented to a mature reader. What irritates me the most, is that Hamilton is better than this. It's clear that she has the basis of a good story bursting to get out, but for some reason prefers to indulge in fantasy of a different kind.

The idea of a part-human part-Fey princess, heir to the throne of Faerie, and her band of Sidhe warrior/lovers is packed with possibilities. The series also features some excellent characters, which are developed with skill and occasionally surprising sensitivity. The immortal pair, Killing Frost, who in my mind's eye looks like a young Richard Chamberlain with silver hair, and Doyle, formerly the Queen's Darkness, who I picture as Isaac Hayes in his Black Moses period, are tremendous assets to the story. Hamilton also manages to cram in a few new characters, such as Mistral, the hard loving, enormously endowed, storm lord, and the subtly dangerous Aisling, a Sidhe who is so handsome he has to wear a veil. Aisling's magic forces anyone who sees him bare faced to fall hopelessly in love. Andais, the Queen of Air and Darkness is back again, and more insane than ever. Some of the scenes where she appears are so well done and so tense that pausing before the end of the chapter is all but impossible. Then there are the revelations, casually thrown in as back story. These include a war waged in the past between humans and the Fey, a set of conditions imposed upon the Seelie and Unseelie courts before they were allowed to come to America, and the reason why both courts have been fading for centuries. It was such elements that kept me reading.

Unfortunately, instead of weaving the various intriguing strands together with the skill she possesses, Hamilton resorts to graphic sex as a focal for point. Not once, but for the vast majority of events. Almost every time there is some kind of progress, it is directly as a result of Meredith's insatiable carnal activities. These over long descriptive passages are interspersed with embarrassingly bad, Mills & Boon romantic filler. Quite why Hamilton torpedoes her characters credibility with this tripe, was a mystery to me. I found it hard to believe that immortal Sidhe warriors, forced into celibacy by the mad Queen for centuries, were so easy to manipulate with the promise of sex. Even though, in this case, there was the added incentive that whoever makes Meredith pregnant will become King. For me, it was a stage set for inhuman politicking, tightly controlled passion, and a level of deviousness at which beings who've lived for thousands of years would surely be expert. Instead, all we get is a soft pornfest, where Meredith drops her knickers at every opportunity and all the blokes are whipped. Unlike other things in the plot, it doesn't stand up!

Copyright © 2005 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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