Reviewed: June 18, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Negotiator Trilogy, Book 1
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 432 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
His life is lived in shadows, exiled from his own kind and alone in the world but for her, the woman he protects every night. He doesn't know her name. He doesn't know what she does for a living. He's never broken through the racial boundaries and dared speak to her, his human ward.
Though he wants to. Aches to with a need that grows by the year, by the night.
He is Alban Korund. He is gargoyle.
Most of Margrit Knight's friends joke about her having a death wish, and while those jokes are always half couched in genuine fear for her safety, Margrit knows she's an adrenaline junkie who prefers to run in Central Park every night. As a lawyer for Legal Aid in Manhattan, she doesn't get a lot of free time in the day, but the truth is, no matter how irrational, how dangerous, Margrit is confident to bone-deep levels. Until the night a pale man dressed in a suit far too light for the frigid winter temperatures steps out of the shadows on the path near her and says hello.
Weird, but easily dismissible until Margrit turns on the news at home and sees a witness to a vicious murder in Central Park describe the tall, pale man in a suit as the perpetrator.
As Alban tries again and again to reach out to Margrit to prove his innocence and Margrit gets dragged deeper and deeper into a world she never new existed - a world full of Old Races and predators beyond human comprehension - the two are drawn into the madness of a murderer with a hideous agenda and a horrific connection to an exiled gargoyle.
Long before I started reading C.E. Murphy's The Walker Papers series, I came across this nifty little trilogy and fell in love. In fact, as much as I enjoy The Walker Papers, The Negotiator Trilogy remains closer to my heart. I love the world that Murphy created here, love the characters, the story. The Old Races add fresh breath and unique life to the genre, as I sure haven't seen a proliferation of gargoyles in fiction, and even though vampires are one of the Old Races, their history is original and shrouded in the sort of mystery that tantalizes instead of tires.
The characters are three dimensional and real, likable but quirky enough to have their own little foibles that add layers to their personalities. Margrit is a bright, confident woman with a strong moral center, liberal of mind and free speaking. She doesn't give much thought to her safety, true, but she throws herself at injustice with a weight far exceeding her body mass. Her ability to see members of the Old Races as people instead of monsters is laudable, even when her mouth starts to write checks that her body's going to have to cash.
Alban is a rock. Literally and figuratively. And in his character is some truly brilliant writing, because Murphy managed to imbue his personality with both a steadfastness that makes sense, a loneliness that devastates, and a stubbornness that is both humorous and intensely frustrating at turns. Where Margrit is fire, burning intensely bright and racing around willy nilly, he is the calm force of protection at her back. The pairing was odd, unique, and filled with a slow burning romantic tension that was very appealing.
But this isn't a romance. It's an urban fantasy. And if the brutal murder of women in Central Park isn't enough of a mystery to solve, Margrit also finds herself caught between a dragon crime lord and a vampire business mogul as the two play a dangerous game of power and influence as coldly calculating as an extended game of chess with the population of New York City as their pawns.
It's a thrilling book, though it's light on world-ending catastrophe like so many in the genre. Instead it offers up a steadily building conflict and rising tension about the murders and takes the time to really open Margrit's eyes to the reality of the world around her. The vampire wants to own her, the dragon wants to play with her, the gargoyle...well...Alban wants to protect her...mostly from himself. Stubborn male.
The beginning was a little slow. After the initial meeting with Alban, the narrative bogged down a bit with the search for him. And I never found Margrit's human friends as interesting as the supernatural elements of the book. Fortunately, after Alban and Margrit start working together, there is very little human interference.
There were also a few times when Margrit's actions and mouth went a little further than just being strong and confident; warranted, given the powerful entities surrounding her. A few times where I wanted to shake her for her insouciance. Just a few, though, and nothing to make her unlikable. Just a little foolhardy at times. There were also a handful of times when I wondered why any of the Old Races would bother sparing any thought to Margrit, or bothered dealing with her at all, for all her pesky humanity. Novelty only goes so far, after all. But then I stopped worrying about that and just sat back and enjoyed this remarkably well-written book.
I loved the end, though. I love how everything came together. I love the book. Knowing it's a complete trilogy is also another nice thing, because there's a sense of completion (I have a gift for the obvious)...a sense that whatever happens as you're reading, it's already all been written and you know you won't be left hanging for a new release sometime in the distant future to find out what happens next. Given the number of long-running series I read, that's a surprisingly comforting and satisfying treat. And so is Heart of Stone and The Negotiator Trilogy.
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