100 Books in 2011 Challenge: Mistral’s Kiss

The first third of Mistral’s Kiss by Laurell K. Hamilton is basically one long sex scene with the protagonist, Merry Gentry having sex with some of her guard. After a while it becomes apparent that the reason for this is that she needs to get pregnant in order to become the heir to her Aunt’s faerie kingdom. It’s not good sex though. Mainly she just lays there while various men go wild with desire on her. It’s all very passive and not particularly engaging.

So for the first 150 pages I was mostly wondering what this book was supposed to be. There wasn’t a lot of plot in the first section. To be fair, this is number five in a series where, yet again, I haven’t read the previous books, so potentially I wasn’t quite getting what was going on.

The middle 100 pages of the book are a bit different. Merry and her guards bring life back to the faerie garden where they are having sex but the garden begins to swallow them up. They escape into another faerie realm and encounter the King of the Sluagh. With whom Merry has previously agreed to have sex so that he has a chance to father her child. At this point, the book starts to make sense as myth. This is the pagan wheel of life, the goddess and god coming to come together in a fertility rite. So there is more unexciting sex. Then the wild hunt is raised and Merry and her guards have to run for their lives.

They open a door into the mundane world. The last 100 pages are more like an urban fantasy detective novel. Merry and her guards fight the wild hunt and transform it into hounds. This is a book that doesn’t seem to know what it is. Is it erotica? Or urban fantasy? Or mythic allegory? It could be all three if they were blended together. I don’t think it would be easy, but it could be good. Instead this is three separate sections one after another and it doesn’t work.

The role of women in the book is problematic. Obviously I can’t say whether it is just this book or the whole series. The female protagonist is constantly surrounded by men, who don’t have fully developed personalities, and the only other female characters are her enemies. There’s her aunt who is a sexual sadist and mainly seems to want to kill Merry. Then there are two sluagh hags who are presented as possessive, jealous and manipulative. It’s a combination of a wish-fulfilment protagonist and misogyny.

The writing problems in this book aren’t about language, they’re about structure. The pacing is awful, characterization is sketchy, and it doesn’t know what it is. I’ll be giving the rest of them a miss.

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