L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

15 September 2006 Blog Home : September 2006 : Permalink

Draw One In The Dark

The observent visitor will note that this blog appears to have sprouted all sorts of mention of a book called Draw One In The Dark by Sarah A. Hoyt (ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-2092-4 / ISBN-10: 1-4165-2092-9). This is a service open to any author that bribes me and who writes a book I like.
[Bribery need not be monetary - I'll take payment in kind (Tuckerization, red shirting, (e)ARCs) - and will depend on the author and book. So if its a book/author I really really like you need to pay less than otherwise.]

Anyway I figure if I'm shilling for it I ought to review the book so here's the review.

Draw One in the Dark (hence forth DOITD) is a fantasy whodunnit and figuring out whodunnit and how/why they dunnit is what draws the reader into the story. The major characters are interesting, sympathetic - even the "bad" ones - and reasonably believable, the story has plenty of twists and the protegonists have enough of a bad time that I think the author copied a rule from Lois M Bujold - when stuck do something nasty to your hero and see how he (she) gets out of it.

DOITD is what I think is known as a modern urban fantasy - that is to say it is a story where fantasy creatures inhabit the world as we know it. I've read quite a few such works and what frequently lets them down is the reason why we "normals" don't notice the weird creatures amongst us. In this case the desperate attempts of the shifters - the people who can shift to a particular animal form - to remain hidden is part of the fun and plays right into the "be nasty to your characters" rule; after all changing to animal shape tends make observers a little nervous and to ruin ones clothes and changing back to human leaves one naked, hence a continuous search for previously cached trousers...

Since I prefer to not spoil the story in a review I'm not going to discuss the plot except in generalities. The protagonists, Kyria and Tom, work the night shift in a diner in a small town in Colorado. One moonlit night Tom is late and Kyrie, who thinks she is the only shifter in the world and who has learned to fight the chamge that moonlight incites, finds him in his shifted form as a dragon in the presence of a recently dead corpse. But there are extenuating circumstances, such as Kyrie shifting into her alternate form - a jungle cat, that make it less that clear that Tom is responsible. Not to mention that she is shocked to learn that she is not the only shifter in the world. The questions of who killed the corpse, why the corpse was where it was and who it was, not to mention who is after Tom and for what, lead us to off on a quest for answers with the clear understanding that getting it wrong means death. And just to make it interesting, somewhere in the tale there is plenty of opportunity for star-crossed (or mooncrossed) lovers, jealousy, betrayal and all the other parts of a romance.

One thing that Sarah manages very well is to make it clear that absolutes of good and bad are out, that is to say everyone is partly good, partly bad; that even the "baddies" see themselves as on the right side and that depending on what you are looking for people that seemed to be "bad" turn out to be "good" (and vice versa).

Another success is misidrection about what the "goal" of the protgonists is (other than the basic one: survival). What seems clear - find this, do that, don't do the other - is subject to change as more information is learned and as a result what looks like a relatively simple "quest" turns out to have rather more twists and turns than might be expected, but not so many that you lose track of the main goals. Very much the same applies to the rocky paths of true love, and of course true love amongst shifters of potentially different shifting species is bound to be rather less straightforward than the regular variety, as if that weren't complicated enough.

Finally the plot comes to a very satisfactory conclusion with the "good" triumphing, the "bad" losing and everyone not bad apparently set to live happily ever after, but yet despite that there is plenty of possibility for a sequel or ten. The particular plot is solved but there is much potential for further sets of problems to show up and I look forward to reading them when they do.

[Note: this review is based on the eARC rather than the final version because the final version has not been released. However I doubt anything critical will change and the review is sufficiently general that it won't matter too much anyway]

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin