Review: Autumn Bones (Agent of Hel #2)

[rape tw, racism tw]

Hey remember what I said last review about how it can be difficult to read an author’s other books when you’ve grown so attached to a certain book or series? Here’s another example!

Daisy Johanssen pulled the resort town of Pemkowet through a tragedy that befell the town that summer, and now she’s gained respect as Hel’s enforcer and she’s dating normal guy Sinclair Palmer, a refreshing change from ghouls and unattainable werewolves, but Sinclair has a secret of his own–he’s descended from Obeah practitioners, and they want him back in the family business. If he refuses, they’ll unleash powerful magic upon the town which could spell its end if Daisy doesn’t do something–and fast!

If there’s one thing Carey has a talent for, it’s interweaving the fantastical with the mundane in such a way that you can readily accept that supernatural tourism is a thing and those quirky neighbours next door are actually otherworldly beings. The series has a very Southern Vampire vibe. Pemkowet feels believable in ways that few urban fantasy settings have felt to me. It feels like a typical small town where everyone knows everyone and supernatural tours are a thing, oh, and the supernatural sometimes shows up for a photo op. I also liked the fact that Daisy, unlike so many other urban fantasy protagonists, actually has female friends and a loving, supportive relationship with her mother. (As explained in the last book, her father is a demon from Hell and him crossing over would mean Armageddon, so there’s a good reason why he’s absent).

That said, the talents of such a good writer are wasted on such a formulaic series. Did you think the love triangle was resolved in the last book? Oh hell no, it’s back. It’s very much back, and you get to listen to Daisy whinge about how sexy and unattainable boring werewolf cop Cody Fairfax is in between her telling you about vocabulary words she’s learned from her teacher. To be fair, however, she does spend a fair amount of time with Stefan, who I find much more interesting even though you could replace his craving for emotions with a taste for blood and end up with a vampire love interest. Speaking of vampires, one thing that really surprised me was Jen’s sister, Bethany, who Daisy constantly refers to as a “blood slut” actually getting a bit of character development. What really annoyed me, though, was that Carey had an opportunity to portray a main character in an urban fantasy with a “normal” relationship that’s also an interracial relationship, and she decided to pull the old “you’re normal and we’re better as friends” thing, not surprising but disappointing. Speaking of things that annoyed me, Daisy herself really started to get on my nerves with the way she kept talking about the vocabulary words she learned from her teacher or the way she kept exclaiming “Gah!” like a young teenager.

This book, like the last one, suffers from rapeyness and consent issues. The first case that Daisy investigates is at a gay nightclub where an orgy is in progress, where the participants are in thrall by a satyr in rut. Now, Daisy mentions that eldritch woo can’t compel true desire, but the fact that a couple characters who are freed from the satyr’s influence clearly didn’t want what happened to them inside the club is disconcerting. I also don’t like how Daisy can’t seem to let Cody go when he has repeatedly told her that things won’t work between them because he needs to have kids with another werewolf.

My other issue with the book is the way Carey uses Obeah as the “Monster of the Week” which seems like it does a disservice to the tradition if it’s not outright appropriative. The villain in this case is a judge who is rumored to have used her powers to influence people and get what she wants, you know how it is. As one reviewer put it, it’s a variant on “the Voodoo episode” (only with Obeah in place of Vodou) as in, every show or book needs to eventually use Vodou as a plot point.

In short, I feel like this series had so much potential, especially since urban fantasy is very erased. Carey could have given us a queer-friendly universe like she did in the Kushiel books, but instead she chose to do a paint-by-numbers trope-riddled mess, and it saddens me because I know she can do better. The Sundering was better than this, Kushiel’s Legacy was better than this. As much as I don’t like to leave a series unfinished, i don’t think I’ll be picking up Poison Fruit. This series, to me, represents a whole lot of wasted potential, and I would absolutely recommend The Sundering or Kushiel’s Legacy over this any day of the week.

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