Novelties: “A Shiver of Light,” by Laurell K. Hamilton

While some fiction lends itself to a certain critical consensus (“good” books and “bad” books), there are other works which end up having a particularly polarized reception. This month, Novelties takes a look at a popular paranormal romance that exemplifies this phenomenon due to the widely-ranging opinions reported by its readers. Laurell K. Hamilton’s A Shiver of Light is an urban fantasy romance, and the two read-alikes we’ll be focusing on share its juxtaposition of fantastical elements with an otherwise familiar, contemporary setting.

Hamilton is primarily known for two series, one focusing on her character Anita Blake and the other on Meredith Gentry. Those interested in A Shiver of Light should know that it’s the ninth book in the Merry Gentry series, and Hamilton had reader’s waiting five years between it and the previous installment. For many this led to great expectations, and here is where the controversy begins: some readers felt that this novel was all they were waiting for and more, while others were disappointed with how it played out after having been so patient. As for the plot, Gentry is a faerie princess who spent time working as a private detective in Los Angeles and who begins this book pregnant with triplets. Facing the need to protect herself and her future children, she enlists the help of several of the men in her life, each with a set of unique supernatural powers, to help her resist the nefarious forces seeking to dominate or destroy her. Potential readers should be aware that this book is very much a romance novel, and contains some fairly explicit scenes of Gentry and her lovers. If that’s what you’re looking for, have at it; otherwise, you might want to skip this one.
Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family is another later (in this case, tenth) installment of a series, this one centering on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse. The book begins with the aftermath of the previous book, Dead and Gone, which saw Stackhouse tortured by supernatural enemies and suffering serious psychological trauma before being rescued. As she is recovering she finds herself dealing with several other sources of drama, including the arrival of her vampire lover’s sire, the discovery of a dead body on her property, and mounting government pressure on the werewolf community. While this all sounds exciting, many readers report feeling that this novel is more “filler” than they would like, slow-moving and unnecessary. However, others claim that it’s an appropriate change in tone after an intense predecessor and does some essential work in wrapping up the intense action from Dead and Gone. There is some good character development and plot advancement, as well as some interesting exploration of the idea of family, but while the book was released to generally positive reviews the popular consensus appears to be that this entry in the series is worth the read but unlikely to be anyone’s favorite.
Lastly, we have Jasper Fforde’s third installment in his Thursday Next series, The Well of Lost Plots. Another novel with elements of crime literature and contemporary fantasy, The Well of Lost Plots is set within an alternate history where fiction is very real and has an often significant impact on reality. Thursday Next is a literary detective who handles cases related to the fictional world (a previous book has her pursuing her antagonist through the plot of Jane Eyre), and in this novel she is newly pregnant and taking a break after her previous assignment. Residing inside an unpublished book within the titular well, Next finds herself having to contend with a murderer who is targeting her colleagues on top of book scavengers and other threats lurking within the unregulated world of the well. Fforde’s universe has been hailed as refreshingly original and imaginative, and his premise leads to a great metafictional treat for the well-read. His writing is full of some solid wordplay and clever references to other works that make for a witty and engaging book. Readers who enjoy this genre but are looking for something different would do well to give this novel—and series—a shot.

E.P. Foster Library has copies of A Shiver of Light, Dead in the Family, and The Well of Lost Plots in its collection, and additional copies are available at other Ventura County Library branches. Dead in the Family is also available to borrow in eBook format through OverDrive. If you want to find more read-alikes, you can access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choice in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

 

Conjured up by Ronald Martin.