Silas receives a message – a summons even – from the witches of San Francisco demanding his help. Witches are going missing, young witches, and one of them is very close to Edie’s ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law.
As they head to San Francisco they have to uncover a plot that risks the Covenant and save young lives before they get in too deep. But just as frightening, Edie has to confront the shadows of her past, people she hurt long ago and an extremely powerful witch who has every reason to hate her.
As is common with this series, this book is far more about the characters than the story. The book is split into multiple point of view sections – Edie, Mark, Silas and Callie and, again, it does it really well. I know I’ve said it every book, but I don’t think I should stop praising it just because I expect it – it really does work. Usually this would be jarring but seeing it from several viewpoints really helps see every character to their fullest. Without this insight into everyone’s head, Edie would seem quite emotionless and cold, Silas would seem uncaring and distant, Callie withdrawn and impulsive and Mark just an arsehole. Because we see inside their heads we see far more of the motives behind each character and it makes for both excellent development and complexity – especially when two characters are at odds and you can see both sides have a point.
One good example of this is the trust issues that permeate this book. Because of various woo-woo Silas has secrets that he simply cannot share with the others. Not doesn’t want to, but absolutely cannot. But at the same time the very nature of his training means he requires complete and unflinching trust from the others, without a shred of thought for privacy. This makes for some excellent development and conflict as Callie repeatedly holds back and even Edie has reservations, tempered by her much longer association with Silas.
There’s a lot of complexities and motives among the group with no-one really wrong because everyone has a point and a good reason for thinking what they think and doing what they do.
This book and series continues to be a wonderful subversion of many annoying elements of Urban Fantasy – especially in relation to feeding and control. The bitten in this world hunger, they need to feed. What they feed on differs from bitten to bitten, but common examples are pain, sex, fear, blood, anger – even devotion. Usually if they can feed on it, they have powers relating to it – and a hunger or drive towards causing it
In any other Urban Fantasy, this would be the cue for lots and lots of sexy times as the sex hunger-ers had lots and lots of sex with very little consent and excused it all with woo-woo, lots of guilt or guilt and woo-woo. They may occasionally complain about it, but generally a wonderful time is had by all
That isn’t the case here. Firstly, the hungers are a constant burden on the bitten. That doesn’t mean they angst constantly about it – but that they always have to fight it, they resign themselves to having to feed it. It’s viewed as a tiresome chore to have to feed, something that gets in the way of normal relationships and something that is quite violating and unpleasant. It doesn’t mean the sex is bad, per se, but the fact they’re doing this because they have to and even that they don’t feel particularly attracted to the people they’re having sex with is very clear. This is nicely contrasted with Edie’s actual, genuine relationship showing attraction, lust and affection. Just by showing her genuine emotion and enthusiasm it exposes the hollowness of having to feed their demonic hungers.
And when someone does lose control of their hunger or of their powers, it isn’t seen as something to mope and angst about, it’s seen as a failing. They don’t think “oh pity me” they’re frowned upon for not having better control – even of things like Mark using his powers to see what would make someone angry and unable to resist the urge to say it so he can feed on their rage. They’re bitten, they’re dangerous and they have a duty to control that danger. Failing is just that, a failure to be judged and chided not to be pitied and babied. It’s a nice switch from the usual angsty, woe-is-me depiction we usually have in the genre to a base expectation of taking responsibility for who and what you are.
That’s not to say there isn’t still the chance for redemption and addressing past mistakes- as Edie’s storyline excellently shows with her confronting her ex-husband’s family- but it takes more than guilt. There’s also some nice ongoing character conflict with Edie’s extreme discomfort with her infatuation power while it being the only thing Hatter/Luis can rely on to remain lucid should he ever want to reconnect with his family. What do you do when the only lifeline you can offer someone is a chain?