Thursday, 25 October 2012

Book Review: Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Title: Dark Currents: Agent of Hel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Notes: Published by Roc Hardcover


The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload; not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.

To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.

But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.

Why I read it

I’m a massive Jacqueline Carey fangirl. I own every single one of her books, mostly in hardback. There was no way I was missing this one.

My Review

Urban fantasy is not my favourite genre. It has its gems, certainly; Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark are some of my favourite books of all time. My favourite books by Jacqueline Carey, however, are her Sundering and Kushiel’s Legacy Series: both dark, lush fantasies, far removed from the present day. Still, it’s clear Carey has also mastered books set in our world – Saint’s Astray was an amazing read – so I had high hopes for Dark Currents.  

The book is set in Pemkowet, an American resort town partially modelled on the place Carey currently lives. The main difference is that Pemkowet has an Underworld: a functioning eldritch community ruled by the Norse Goddess Hel; populated by werewolves, fairies, ogres, and more. Some of these are played very much for laughs – the naiads are fashion-obsessed critters, while Hel’s terrifying guard dog is easily pacified by a loaf of bread – but others are given a more complex treatment. The ghouls were one such. Rejected by Heaven and Hell and thus condemned to walk the Earth for eternity, they were fascinating characters. Still, I wish the religious implications of their presence had been explored. Carey dealt with religion beautifully in the Kushiel books, but ignores issues arising from the mishmash of Gods and Goddesses here.  

This could largely be down to Daisy. The book is told from her perspective; and, despite being a “reluctant hell-spawn” who could trigger the Apocalypse by embracing her demonic heritage, she’s not the sort of girl that thinks about religious philosophy. Refreshingly different from many other angst-ridden characters of the genre, Daisy is an uncomplicated movie buff, prone to anger and mild bisexuality. I loved the descriptions of her tail and temper, and she is easily one of the best things about this book. Stefan the ghoul was also a standout character. I can’t wait to read more of him. 

Plot wise, the novel is light and entertaining. There’s a murder mystery to be solved, but Daisy’s colloquial narration means the book’s darkness rarely comes to the forefront. It’s easier to focus on the romance a-brewing, especially as Daisy has three potential matches to choose from. Personally I don’t care who she ends up with (if anyone!) but I liked the way Carey wrote Daisy’s lust – it’s frank and sexual, which felt very much in character for both of them. There are also some nice female friendships to round out the boy talk. 


This was a well-told, enjoyable novel. There’s a lot to like about it – Daisy is a great character, and some of Carey’s eldritch descriptions are amazing. The main thing that bothered me was the casual tone it was told in. It made it hard for me to slip into the story; personally, I would have preferred something darker. Still, it’s a good book. Fans of urban fantasy should definitely source a copy.

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