Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series is one of my favorites. With lots of sexy fae, mystery, and incredibly damaged (and demented) rulers, Merry’s life is never boring. I didn’t even mind the wait (ahem, sort of) between A Shiver of Light and the previous one, Divine Misdemeanors. There were so many plot threads left open (babies and daddies and old magic) that I felt I had to find out what happened. I should note that it is fairly important to read the books of this series in order. Too many moving parts, an abundance of characters, and incredibly complex world-building may make reading A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton far too confusing without the history provided in previous books (so read them first!).
I am Princess Meredith NicEssus. Legal name Meredith Gentry, because “Princess” looks so pretentious on a driver’s license. I was the first faerie princess born on American soil, but I wouldn’t be the only one for much longer…
Merry Gentry, ex–private detective, now full-time princess, knew she was descended from fertility goddesses, but when she learned she was about to have triplets, she began to understand what that might mean. Infertility has plagued the high ranks of faerie for centuries. Now nobles of both courts of faerie are coming to court Merry and her men, at their home in exile in the Western Lands of Los Angeles, because they will do anything to have babies of their own.
Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, is a more dangerous problem. He tried to seduce Merry and, failing that, raped her. He’s using the human courts to sue for visitation rights, claiming that one of the babies is his. And though Merry knows she was already pregnant when he took her, she can’t prove it.
To save herself and her babies from Taranis she will use the most dangerous powers in all of faerie: a god of death, a warrior known as the Darkness, the Killing Frost, and a king of nightmares. They are her lovers, and her dearest loves, and they will face down the might of the high courts of faerie—while trying to keep the war from spreading to innocent humans in Los Angeles, who are in danger of becoming collateral damage.
I sat down to read. (Cue the excitement!) Instead of the usual continuous action, A Shiver of Light was much more cerebral and emotional than anything else. (What? Where are the battles to the death and torture?) Merry finally has those beautiful babies – which was great. Ultimately, the entire book is Merry’s emotional journey discovering which men fathered which baby and incorporating those babies (and their wicked baby skills) into her chaotic daily life. I loved that they are these tiny, powerful beings that have so much potential (not unlike any other baby, less superpowers). The entire household revolved around the small creatures, and it was fascinating to see each father’s reaction to having a child (more attentive vs. less attentive fathers). The babies are great but I missed the action.
Aunt Andais and Uncle Taranis make appearances. There are some interesting surprises with those two. Andais is a great character that waffles between evil madness and moments of rational clarity; she is utterly fascinating. I enjoyed the way that Merry and her men approached the sticky situation with Andais, as well as the limitations placed on her behaviors. It gave much insight into the question of how sidhe age and brought up the concern of mental health (which was a huge focus throughout).
How do you tell someone who has been the ultimate power of life and death for more than two thousand years that she can’t come visit great-nieces and nephew? That was always the trouble with dealing with the immortal; they were so used to getting their way.
Thankfully, Merry does not have to travel to faerie and deal with either of them as A Shiver of Light takes place in the human realm (there are some dream sequences and mirror calls). In true LKH style, not every person in the story survives through to the end (sad face) and the stage is set for even more books (hopefully, with more sex and fighting). With Merry’s emotions driving the plot, the story felt slow and awkward to me. Maybe the emotions were reality-based (it really did feel like a post-partum journey), but it wasn’t something that I really wanted to read about. A crazy amount of page time was spent on the amazing benefits of therapy, almost in a PSA fashion. (Books with overt messages and life lessons make me growly.)
“…We wingless ones among the demi-fey went even more unnoticed than the rest; at least they were color and beauty, but those of us who had not been so blessed only watched from the grass and the roots of things. It gives a perspective that I might not have had if I’d been on the wing back then.”
“What perspective is that? Rhys asked.
“To know that everyone starts on the ground. Trees, flowers, people, even the mighty sidhe must stand upon the dirt in order to move forward.”
So, that’s a nice sentiment…
It is not where you begin, or what gifts you begin with, but what you do with them that matters in the end.
Okay. Maybe I’ve heard that before. But, wait, there’s more.
Those who hated us for physical traits we could not change could go hang themselves. Racists are always evil, whether it’s the color of your skin they hate, or how many limbs you have, or how fragile you are; it’s all hatred and it’s all just fear.
Separately, the words of wisdom are innocuous enough. Combined, they are too much and a little “preachy” for me.
All frustrations aside, I still love Merry and her men (and now there are super babies!). I just wish that there had been more about the babies in this story, instead of the oddly placed moral lessons scattered throughout. Also, the overly descriptive prose and repetition of certain scenes made A Shiver of Light seem twice as long and not nearly interesting enough for a fertility deity and her harem. However, there were some incredible plot bunnies that will, hopefully, be realized in future books. It’s my hope that A Shiver of Light is a transitional book meant to set the stage for what is to come: new rulers, new kingdoms, new powers, more old magic, and many battles. Fingers crossed.