Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-21254-8
Yasmine Galenorn also writes as India Ink, I’m given to understand, and Witchling is the first book in her first paranormal series with a romantic bent. As the first book in the Sisters of the Moon series, this book introduces what could have been another generic created-for-romance-readers fantasy world: the Faeries have landed! In this world, Faeries are everything from Sidhe to brownies to lyncantrophes to vampires to… well, everything, really. Ms Galenorn keeps all her bases covered.
Previously, the Faeries live in what we’ll call the Otherworld while the world that we know is called the Earthside. There is one more world, the Subterranean Realm, that is the home to demons and other creepy-crawlies. Earthside and the Otherworld have recently come into contact so some Faeries are stationed Earthside to keep an eye out on the welfare of Faeries living in Earthworld. However, this isn’t a fun job, as Camille D’Artigo will tell you. She and her two sisters are pretty much exiled to Earthside under the guise of them being sent here as agents of the OIA (Otherworld Intelligence Agency).
Not content with being Charlie’s Angels, the D’Artigo sisters want to be the Charmed Ones as well. Camille is the responsible one, the Piper Halliwell of the bunch if you well. She’s also the witch who can’t control her powers. Yup, Piper. Delilah is the one who can shape-change into a cat. She’s girly-girl at times, acting nauseatingly cute at times while hissing like a cat at other times. Phoebe Halliwell, is that you? Menolly, the other sister, has been turned into a vampiress in a mission gone wrong. She’s very strong, she’s bitchy, she’s tough, and she’s so Prue Halliwell.
Witchling, the first book, is told from Camille’s point of view although the story arc that starts in this book seems to continue in the next book. Our story begins with the murder of a giant – a real one – which leads the D’Artigo sisters into a mystery involving demons trying to tear down the boundaries of all three worlds so that the demons can be the boss of everybody. The Otherworld is ruled by a Queen who is more concerned on when she will get her next stash of opium and civil war is about to break out, so the D’Artigo sisters cannot expect help or reinforcements from the Otherworld. They have to go gung-ho on their own, although help comes from unlikely quarters: Camille’s old flame, the dark Sidhe or Svartan named Trillian, the yokai-kitsune (shapeshifting fox demon of Japanese folklore) called Morio, and a genuine dragon that we’ll just call Smoky for now.
I have some minor difficulties getting into this story at first because Ms Galenorn seems unsure as to whether she wants to go all annoying cute and precious in this story (Earthside, Subterranean Realm, and a villain called Bad Ass Luke – am I reading a hokey dime novel or what?) or sober in a creepy take-me-seriously dark fantasy manner. Some scenes in this story are definitely not cute or precious, so they stand out like sore thumbs amidst the nauseating cutesy-pootsy elements in this story. Delilah is really annoyingly cutesy-pootsy: I feel like wanting to kick a few kittens myself after reading that scene where Delilah just cannot stand to see people argue so she has to turn into a cute kittie that make the arguing people go “Awww!” and make-up because UGH. What kind of scene is that?
However, I like the underlying story arc and the way Ms Galenorn is building up the story. Despite the generic kitchen-sink elements of her fantasy world, there are many interesting canon that I would love to find out more, such as the thing about never telling dragons your real name and the deal with the mysterious oracle Grandmother Coyote. Besides, there’s a Japanese hottie in here! How can I say no to that? Okay, his name is Morio, there’s that, I suppose, but still…
The one problem this book has, apart from too much cutesy-pootsy stuff at times, is the fact that the author isn’t subtle when it comes to expositions. Too many of the dialogues in this story are very obvious expositions to the reader. Too often the characters are explaining things to each other like they are in a seminar and after a while, it’s very obvious whenever the characters are having a conversation solely for the purpose of the author wanting to explain some concept to her readers. Also, the confrontation with Bad Ass Luke and the way they defeat him are surprising anticlimactic. I don’t care what other people say: if he doesn’t have Jennifer Lopez’s butt and he goes down that fast in a battle, he has no right to call himself Bad Ass Luke.
As for the romance, there is really not much of one. Camille at times is in danger of becoming the new post-bad-porn Anita Blake because every man that sets eyes on her lo-ooo-oves her and wants to get naked with her. I’ve mentioned three guys in this story. All three want her. Who gets her, you ask? Again, let me just say this: Camille is in danger of becoming the new post-bad-porn Anita Blake. Or Merry Gentry, who, come to think of it, is pretty much the same person as Anita Blake these days. If you are looking for a romance that has closure by the last page of the book, you won’t find it in Witchling. I don’t find this an issue but I’m just pointing this out to readers who may find this an issue.
Personally, I find this story an interesting if uneven start to a series. I like many aspects of the world-building. I just wish Ms Galenorn will settle down soon into either being entirely cutesy-pootsy or take-me-seriously badass-babes-rule or at least stick to one dominant voice and style because her constant switching from one style to the other during the story distracts me to the point of driving me nuts at times.
At this point, it’s too early to judge this series and it is also very hard to judge Witchling as a standalone book since there are so many loose ends by the last page. All I can say is, for now, I’m willing to hop onboard the cutesy-pootsy train and see where Ms Galenorn will take me from here.