Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-937007-18-8
The Mortal Bone, book four in Marjorie M Liu’s Hunter Kiss series, is almost a stand alone book, in the sense that it is easy to catch up with the baggage from previous books and there is a satisfying resolution here for folks who do not wish to read any other books in this series. It is still best to read my review of the first book in the series, however, if you are new and want to get some background detail. Also do note that some of the basic information in the synopsis here can be considered spoilers for previous books in this series, so proceed to read this review at your own discretion.
Where we last saw Maxine Kiss and her husband Grant, they have met and learned more about demons – who turns out to be beings from other worlds locked in a brutal culture of which Maxine’s “boys” have a big role in – and the Aetar, powerful beings that could destroy all life on this planet without breaking a sweat. In this story, the trouble continues when Maxine is lured into touching what seems like a gift from her late mother, setting in motion events that cause her and her demons to be truly separated. For the first time in who knows how long, Zee and his buddies are free to do as they wish, while Maxine, no longer having their protection, is now more vulnerable than ever to her enemies. More significantly, without Maxine’s psyche and physical form to contain them, would Zee and his buddies revert to being the demons that once terrorized worlds unknown with their power?
The Mortal Bone is what I’d call a typical example of a bridge book in a series – it exists to fill up the vacuum between books in the series, but it doesn’t advance the main plot in any way. There are many questions still left unanswered, and worse, some of the major developments in this story take place just because. Seriously, nobody knows why things happen here sometimes – especially things related to Grant’s developing powers – but they do happen and, how happily for everyone, they happen for the best where our main characters are concerned. The supremely annoying Jack is back – now that’s what I call bad rhyming from hell – and he still can’t give a straight answer. Hello, old man, The Matrix was so over by now so you can stop talking like the Architect now, thanks and shut up. Why have him show up if he’s just only to talk and annoy me, I’d never know.
But there is a reason to read this book, however – to get a fascinating glimpse into the bond between Maxine and her “boys”. Previously, they were her prisoners as well as allies, and now, she can’t take their loyalty for granted anymore since they are free to act on their own. It’s interesting to see how Zee and his buddies react to their unexpected freedom. As it turns out, the relationship between captor and prisoners is more complicated than expected. If the previous book focused the spotlight on Maxine’s relationship with Grant, here it’s all about her and the boys. I also get a closer look at the politics among the demon leaders, and it’s fascinating.
Despite my discontent with the plot of this story, I find The Mortal Bone a very compelling and, ultimately, entertaining read because it is a well-crafted fast-paced romp with a heroine who still manages to be strong and smart despite the fact that she’s now more open to forming strong relationships to other people. The way the author treats the mother-daughter bond is, as always, interesting especially with what seems like the inevitable tragedy that always results from such a bond. The events at the end of this book have me rolling my eyes a bit, as they basically have our main characters becoming powerful to the point that it’s almost like the author is cheating with the dice roll somehow, but still, the story has been really fun up to that point that I’m happy to roll with things. The author’s narrative is compelling, the first person voice is gripping, and the setting is fascinating.
I won’t recommend this book to anyone new to the series, but folks already following the series may like it as much as me. At the very least, the series shows no sign of sagging yet at this point, so all is good.