Tuesday, February 02, 2010

On the Edge

On the Edge (The Edge #1) by Ilona Andrews
Read: 12/8/09-12/9/09
LibraryThing tags, if I had put this on LibraryThing (I'm currently at the max number of books I can add for free -- the lifetime upgrade doesn't cost much, but still, not doing it yet): Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Rural Fantasy, Romance, Georgia, Atlanta

The most recent of Ilona Andrews' (actually two people, a husband and wife team) books and the first of a new series, I read the first two books in her (agh, I mean their) Kate Daniels series before this, but I'm reviewing this one first because I need to return it to the library.

The first order of business is to explain my "rural fantasy" tag. It's a slightly misremembered term, on my part, from the original "rustic fantasy" the husband in the writing team came up with:
"The first hint of trouble came when Gordon edited it and took to calling it 'rustic fantasy' as opposed to urban fantasy." At first I thought this was just silly. I mean, I can tell what the point is, but isn't that ridiculously redundant? And yeah, "urban fantasy" sounds like it should be urban, but in reality the sub-genre is basically defined as our modern contemporary world with fantasy elements -- often with vampires and werewolves, often urban, pretty often with large doses of romance and mystery, but those aren't the defining points. So okay, "rustic" or "rural fantasy" is going to be those, only set somewhere in the country, right?

After reading it, I decided it's an oddly appropriate classification. It's so appropriate, I don't know if anyone else will ever write a book that fits the category as well as this, but oh well. See, even though your standard fantasy fare generally is set in the country, On the Edge feels even more rural than that! How so? It reminded me of things I've heard about the Appalachians, for starters.

In this world, you have the Broken, the Edge, and the Weird. The Broken is our world, complete with Wal-Marts. The Weird is a place where blueblood aristocrats rule. Magical strength is very important in the Weird, and the aristocrats tend to have it. Magic isn't usable in the Broken, making magic users from the Edge or the Weird feel broken, hence the name. The Edge is the long, long, long strip of land between the Broken and the Weird. Most people in the Broken don't know about the Edge or the Weird, wouldn't be able to see the boundary. And for people in the Weird, it's painful to cross to the Edge, and possibly fatal to cross to the Broken. People on the Edge have to have sufficient magic to cross to the Weird. If those from the Weird succeed in crossing to the Broken, there's the danger of losing their magic if they stay long enough, and not being able to cross back.

Edgers -- well, they could easily remind one of white trash, only the main character, Rose, is way way way too likeable for me to ever want to call her that. Their culture makes a lot of sense, given that they're isolated from the rest of the world, with no police force. It's like what I've heard small towns are like, with plenty of people rubbing each other the wrong way, but they have their own ways of dealing with it to avoid blood feuds between their clans. And they're poor, because if you're born on the Edge you don't have a proper Broken birth certificate, and that means you work the same kinds of jobs any illegal alien works.

So, that's your basic world premise. I won't get into the main character's premise, that's another bundle of explanation. Not too much for the book -- the exposition is handled just fine -- but a bit much for one review.

Besides finding the world fascinating, did I like it? Yes, definitely. Some of the situations for the romance were a bit of a stretch, a little silly, but some of the later explanations helped. And I liked the characters. The main character, Rose, takes care of two little brothers I thought were awesome. I'd tell you all about them, long review or no, but I don't want to spoil it. Oh, and the novel's hook was great. A wonderful first page, a wonderful first three pages, and then just try to put it down. There were several places that made me laugh out loud, great lines and scenes. I'll see what I can quote without ruining anything. Hmm. Well, this isn't the best of them, but it had me cracking up. For all you manga fans out there:

“She barely had a chance to taste her first cup of coffee when Georgie wandered out of his room, sleepy eyed, his hair tousled. He ambled over to the window and yawned.

‘Would you like some Mini-Wheats?’ she asked.

He didn’t answer.


Georgie stared out of the window. ‘Lord Sesshomaru.’

The demon brother from their comic book? ‘I’m sorry?’

‘Lord Sesshomaru,’ he repeated, pointing through the window.

Rose came to stand behind him and froze. A tall man stood at the edge of the driveway. A cape of gray wolf fur billowed about him, revealing reinforced-leather armor, lacquered gray to match his cape, and a long elegant sword at his waist. His hair was a dark, rich gold, and it framed his face in a glacial cascade that fell over his left shoulder without a trace of a curl.”

This one amused me, too:

“His gaze snagged on her Clean-n-Bright uniform. ‘Why are you wearing that?’

‘It’s my uniform. Everyone in my company wears it.’

‘It’s hideous.’

Rose felt her hackles rise. The neon green uniform was hideous, but she didn’t appreciate him pointing it out. She opened her mouth.

‘Yet despite it, you look lovely,’ he said.

‘Flattery will get you nowhere,’ she told him.

‘It’s not flattery,’ he said coldly. ‘Flattery requires exaggeration. I’m merely stating a fact. You’re a beautiful woman wearing an ugly sack of unnatural color.’”

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