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Night Child
Jes Battis
Ace, 292 pages

Night Child
Jes Battis
Jes Battis is from Vancouver, but was living in New York City and teaching at Hunter College for the academic year 2007-2008. Jes is an academic, with a concentration in English and Pop Culture Studies, who has had two books published, one on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and one on Farscape.

Jes Battis Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Tammy Moore

In a world where humans have to co-exist with demons, half-demons and mages, a dead vampire in a stinking alley doesn't really merit a 2AM wake-up call. Not in OSI-1 Tess Corday's opinion anyhow. Only this dead vampire turns out to be anything but routine, in fact, it might just be the tip of the supernatural iceberg. With her job on the line -- three warnings for insubordination, two notes on tardiness and a reprimand for misplaced evidence mean she needs to solve this case -- Tess has to deal with vampire politics, overly helpful necromancers, over-protective guardians and angry teens before she can get anywhere near the truth.

It doesn't help that her boss, Marcus, seems to want nothing more than to see her fail. Or that before he died the vampire had gone to see Mia, a girl who was the spitting image of Tess's dead childhood friend. A girl who seemed, somehow, to be in the middle of this whole thing. Tormented by dreams of smoke and burning, Tess finds herself breaking the rules more and more in her struggle to find the truth.

To protect Mia from whoever wants to use her, and to put her own demons to rest, Tess will do almost anything.

It still might not be enough.

Night Child is the first of the OSI novels by Jes Battis and it does an admirable job of setting a up a world where demons are just another, dangerous, sort of criminal. Magic is studied and picked about and explained through dark matter and manipulation of seismic energy or ultraviolet light (while secretly still obviously magic) and demons are categorized and their powers documented by what must be the most thrill-seeking of anthropologists. I loved the sniffer cats -- who have a sensitivity to materia, the matter of magic -- and the easy-going blend of science and alchemy we saw in the lab.

Jes Battis is also an excellent writer. He is an English professor so if his technical skills weren't up to scratch it would be a little embarrassing, but he also has a quick, facile imagination and I've already mentioned his knack for world-building.

As the first novel in a series, this book did its job since I do want to know what happened next. Did Tess keep her job? What does happen with that teaser on the last line. Does Mia's resemblance to Tess' friend actually mean anything? It's a world that I do want to go back to.

As a stand-alone novel, however, Night Child does have some flaws that served to throw me out of that carefully created world. Mostly there was just too much going on in the book and an awful lot of it wasn't necessary to the basic plot. Even worse they were all weighted with the same significance -- this is important, remember this -- only to peter out unsatisfactorily at the end. The death/murder of Tess' mentor, the resemblance between Mia and Tess' dead childhood friend, the childhood friend's constantly returned to death and even the necromancer Lucian -- who, while a great character, seemed really a bit superfluous except as the expected inappropriate love interest. On their own, each of the threads was interesting, each of them had potential, but all bundled together it became slightly messy. It needed pared down, simplified.

It was still an enjoyable read, just not as good as it could have been. Still, the world itself and that last line teaser I mentioned have me intrigued enough that I'd give the second book a chance.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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