Reviewed: March 4, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: World of the Lupi, Book 4
Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: 352 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Finder and FBI Agent Cynna Weaver is just starting to accept that she's pregnant, that she and the lupus Cullen Seaborne are going to have a child, when a delegation from the alternate realm of Edge show up in a fountain in a Washington D.C. mall. Offering trade with Earth for assistance in locating a medallion that controls the balance in Edge, the members of the delegation are cagey and secretive, and refuse to speak openly without a magical shield in place. A shield that only Cullen, a sorcerer as well as lupus, is able to erect.
When Cullen pours power into the spell to erect it, however, the truth becomes horribly clear. What spreads across the room isn't a shield, it's a gate between realms. The realization comes too late. Cynna and Cullen, along with the former demon Gan, FBI Magical Crimes Division Agent Steve Timms and a few others end up trapped in Edge, forced to track down the medallion just to get back home.
They're not the only ones after the medallion, however, and while that's distressing, the true problem is that there's someone out there even more intent on stopping Cynna from Finding it...and determined to kill them all to do so.
Taking a slightly bigger step towards fantasy than urban fantasy, Night Season is also the first book of the series to focus solely on Cynna and Cullen as protagonists, with Lily Yu and her lupus mate Rule Turner as little more than briefly featured ancillary characters. It's unusual, but not completely unique, as Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Underworld series is similarly handled, though to a wider extent. Wilks pulls it off nicely here, though, and does so in part because one of her greatest authorial strengths is the realistic, sympathetic, and completely believable evolution of characters over the story arc of the book and series.
Her plots aren't too shabby either, and again I'm impressed by the combination of creativity and steady, thorough storytelling. The World of the Lupi is ever-expanding, and I admire how smoothly and seamlessly the backdrop and current events unfold to create a wider universe. It's been captivating, really, having been pulled into the world the at the beginning of the series and reading through each book as that world and the characters in it drastically...though gradually and naturally...change and become more and more magic-touched. It's been an excellent journey so far, and one I would strongly suggest new readers to the series embark on, instead of jumping in somewhere in the middle. Too much of the truly masterful aspects of this series can only be appreciated with knowing the characters, where they came from, and how they connect.
In part because we got away from a lot of the lupus mythos in this book, I had an easier time with both the narrative and the plotline. It lacked a little of the depth and complexity of previous books, but it also provided a very satisfying romance subplot that was handled with both subtlety and intelligence. That subplot was actually one of my favorite parts of the book, and where I gained the most admiration for Wilks' ability to create and mold her characters and their personal history in such a way that who each of the characters are as people is vital and intrinsic to the nature and direction of the relationship evolution. It sounds so simple...yet in truth, it's so very rare, even in books with a wholly romantic plot. Too many times authors create Character A and Charater B and push them together regardless of the backstory and circumstance written, toss them into bed together, and manipulate the plot to get to the HEA. It ends up feeling inorganic and heavily plotted.
Nothing felt inorganic here. Nothing ever feels inorganic when it comes to character or relationship evolution in Wilks' books.
Wilks does have one quirk to her writing style that I've been consistently dissatisfied with as the series has progressed, and it was in full form in Night Season. Through the implementation of sudden timeline jumps or shifting POVs in the narrative, action scenes are often (though not always) none-too-subtly sidestepped. Fights, major conflicts, and abrupt changes in circumstance occur out of the reader's view, only to end up discussed or explained in retrospect instead of being written out. It's a writing style and choice that isn't to my liking, as I feel it disconnects me from the flow of the story and detracts from my emotional investment in the characters as the plot unfurls.
Issues I've had in the series with exposition overload or boggy narrative during excessive descriptive scenes, though, were not a problem for me in this book, and I felt the overall pace of the story was quick and evenly distributed. Part of that, I'm sure, is due to the less complex plot, but whatever the reason, I didn't have the problem of my mind wandering a bit here and there like I have in a few places in the first three books.
This series isn't really one of the flashier urban fantasy series out there, yet it's one of my favorites among the active ones I read. The plots are solid and well written, the world is creative and expanding nicely, the characters have a satisfying depth and appealing likability, and their relationships are brilliantly and realistically described and evolved. After four books, I'm a little surprised that a series plot arc hasn't become readily apparent to me...though there may not be one, I suppose (or I'm too obtuse to figure it out...which is, admittedly, possible), but that's not a disappointed surprise. It's a pleasant one, actually, because when you don't know exactly where you're going, you truly get to sit back and savor the journey without the heavy weight of expectation. And I plan to keep right on savoring The World of the Lupi series for as long as possible.
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