Bantam, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52577-2
Another Kind of Dead begins the slow path of healing after the damage caused on my psyche by the second book in the author’s Dreg City series. Oh, and if you are new to the whole thing, hello and go read the review of the first book to get acquainted with everyone. Back to this book, this one is nowhere as fun as Three Days to Dead, but it has nowhere the levels of stupidity exhibited in As Lie the Dead. That’s the good news. The bad news is this: Evy Stone is still as dumb as a pack of fries short of a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and she is still a xenophobe despite the fact that human beings have done the most damage to her in this as well as the last two books.
I know, in romantic urban fantasy stories, it is common to find heroines with barely any functional brain cell walking around sucking precious oxygen from the atmosphere. But that’s okay, because their existence serves to allow the braw alpha male to protect these wretched wenches from the cruel world. In a straight-up urban fantasy setting, however, I think Evy is easily one of the most stupid – if not the most stupid – female protagonists I’ve the misfortune to come across.
In this one, Evy isn’t dead yet, thus crushing the dreams and hopes of Darwinists everywhere. She learns that the fae have once again done a boo-boo, losing a very important crystal and therefore possibly putting the world in jeopardy… again. A mad scientist sort is conducting biological experiments that result in what seems like dangerous monster-human hybrids. Evy and Wyatt, her boyfriend, are on the case and once again they leave behind a trail of carnage as they bumble their way against time to save the day. Thank goodness that they have non-human allies to turn to, although Evy will naturally, without any hint of self awareness, insist that non-humans can’t be trusted with anything. This coming from a woman whose fellow humans have “killed” her twice now – humans that she is still working with because they are her friends. The revelations she discover in this one… well, let’s just say that we’ve all heard about what they said about being fooled thrice, yes? Let’s see if Ms Meding will take things up a notch and go for four for the score.
In a way, Ms Meding has created a rare dynamic in her power couple. For once, the man is the sensitive brain while the heroine is the rabid beefcake. Unfortunately, no matter how intriguing I find this reversal of gender roles to be, I realize that I have no stomach for Evy. She’s just too stupid for my liking. She’s like a rabid bulldog, always itching for a fight and constantly unable to control herself. Wyatt is the one who does most of the thinking here – Evy just has to charge ahead with a snarl. Unfortunately, Evy is not a killer bulldog – she’s like that rabid chihuahua that keeps trying to nip at one’s ankle because when it really matters, Evy gets bested by the villain in a manner that has me going, “You have to be kidding me!” Hey, we can’t all be superheroes, I know, but when Ms Meding has Evy barking all night and talking up a big fight, only to have that poor darling going down for the count before I can even blink, Evy ends up being a butt of mockery than anything else. She mistakes rudeness for sarcasm, talks of putting up that big fight that she can’t deliver, and stupidly insists on hating and mistrusting non-humans even as she hypocritically expects them to drop everything in their lives and assist her in her fight against her own kind.
I don’t know, maybe this is by design, maybe by book ten, Evy finally learns to hold hands and sing kumbaya after being duped by humans for the tenth consecutive time. Heaven knows, her profile certainly allows for such stupidity – the members of the Triad are selected to be what they are because they are Lawful Stupid types who will do the most cruel things to non-humans in the mistaken fanatical belief that everything is for the greater good. They don’t question orders, they don’t disobey, and they don’t hesitate to kill each other when ordered to do so. Indeed, the villain here may be a nasty one, but considerable bulk of the torture and cruelty is performed by humans, the “good guys”, and worse, they inflict torture on a child-like monster who clearly has no idea what it is doing.
So yes, maybe Kelly Meding is trying to make me think about the grey lines between good and evil. Maybe she wants me to walk with her on the dark side of the human psyche. But in this case, I’m afraid I just don’t have the tolerance for a protagonist who so far is shown to be as dumb as dirt, incapable of learning from her mistakes, and whose first impulse in any situation is to bash people’s head in. To top it off, Evy will declare without any hint of self-awareness that she hates people who commit acts of violence. Sorry, Ms Meding, but Evy is just too irritating a character for me to follow for much longer. Let me know, though, when she dies a slow and painful death in a future book – I’d make sure that I’m first in line to read that one.