The other day I was on Twitter, offering my opinion on the latest kerfluffle to the internet – because we all know how internet suffers without the benefit of my opinion ::eye roll: – and I ran into a self-published author who was following my Twitter account. She responded to my kerfluffle tweet and said something like, “Yes, and this person gets paid 50 times what I make, and here I’m trying my hardest just to get a chance.” So I bought her book, because everyone should get a chance.
That evening I looked at the book. It’s an urban fantasy. I don’t read urban fantasy when I’m working. I try not to read it at all, actually, both to keep from unconsciously stealing and because the plot lines are so familiar, it feels like work. So strike one. The heroine sees dead people. Been there, read that, got the ghostly T-shirt. Strike two. Plus, angels and demons. Not my favorite trope. Strike three.
But I bought the book, the author knew I bought the book, so I decided to give it a shot, fully expecting to DNF the thing, because I’m a hateful bitch who hates everything.
I finished it.
I didn’t have to force myself to finish it. I finished it, because I wanted to, and I put the book I was reading and very much looked forward to aside, so I could read Black Parade.
There is a fine line between cliche and classic, and Black Parade stays just on the right side of that line. We have all the traditional staples of UF: the secret world of angels, demons, and ghosts; an orphan heroine, who will fight against overwhelming odds to help other people but is terrified to let people close; a hot angel; a frightening seductive demon; magic, action, fate of the world hanging in the balance. This doesn’t just dip a toe into the stereotypical UF land, it takes a swan dive into the deep water, and I should’ve bounced off of it, but for some reason this worked for me.
I think it’s the voice. Check this out:
The alarm clock went off like a duck being strangled with a telephone cord. I always tried and failed to remember to buy a new one. Groaning, I lurched onto my side and slapped at the device until it went silent. Sunlight streamed in, golden and annoying, through a gap in the dingy grey curtains of the window across from the bed. I threw the comforter over my head and lay there with my face pressed into the mattress, breathing in the faint smell of fabric softener and fried chicken. I really did need to wash these sheets.
After about a minute, I reluctantly climbed out from underneath the blanket and stumbled towards the closet to find my white button up shirt and short black skirt. My shift at the restaurant would start in half an hour. Colton would kick my ass if I was late again.
After wriggling into my work clothes, I wandered into the kitchen and began the nearly involuntary process of making coffee. Once it was brewing, I retreated to the bathroom. As I brushed my teeth, I read the list of the names and addresses I’d taped to the vanity mirror: Linda, Ming-Na, and Ron. I only worked a five-hour shift today so I should have been able to take care of all three of them. After I finished brushing my teeth, I swept my hair up into something that vaguely resembled a bun and took a deep breath before staring into my reflection for a brief analysis.
To be frank, I looked like shit. The skin beneath my eyes was dark with circles since I hadn’t gotten a decent amount of sleep in about two years, my complexion that had once been a rich brown was now a sickly brown-paper-bag color, and my weight had dropped significantly from lack of decent meals. Lord knows how I managed to keep my job looking like this. Cue the makeup—some foundation to cover up the spots and black eyeliner to further divert attention from my unhealthy pallor. A dash of lip gloss and voila, I was once again presentable for public consumption.
My gaze fell across the list again. I sighed. “Ninety-six down, four to go.”
I snatched the Post-It off the mirror and grabbed my flats on the way to the kitchen where my coffee was ready. When I got to the kitchen, I shrieked in surprise.
My favorite forest-green coffee mug was already out and filled with coffee.
M, Kyoko. The Black Parade (pp. 4-5). Kindle Edition.
Here is more:
Crazed teeth gnashed inches away from my face. The eyes rolled back until only the whites showed. Spider-like fingers strained for my throat. I screamed and ran towards the bedroom.
I slammed the door shut and dove for the nightstand, hands shaking as I checked the chambers to make sure the gun was loaded. The door flew open with a bang. A second bang followed. Then all was silent.
The phantom was gone, but in its place stood a man in a suit beneath his dark grey duster. His hair was black and his face was growing paler by the second. He reached out his hand. My panicked eyes spotted the scarlet speckled across the palm. The room had gone silent because the gun had deafened me. The barrel was still smoking and now I could see the hole I had put through the man’s chest.
I couldn’t breathe, but somehow I could still talk, and my lips were whispering one word over and over.
“No, no, no, no…”
The man said nothing as he fell to his knees in front of me, his azure eyes locked on mine as if he were trying to tell me something, but the strength was ebbing from him in crimson rivulets. I dropped the gun and fell to my knees as well. My fingertips grazed his face as if I could bring him back to life with one touch, but we both knew it was too late. He laid a rough, scarred hand to the side of my cheek where hot tears had fallen, his lips parting to whisper in a soothing voice.
“Don’t be afraid. They’re going to come for you, but please don’t be afraid.”
M, Kyoko. The Black Parade (p. 36). Kindle Edition.
The voice is really good. The manuscript itself is just well written and well edited. Had this been on the table in 2010, publishers would’ve snapped it up. So if you have a bit of nostalgia for the times paranormal beings roamed the bookshelves in droves, this will hit the spot. I don’t understand why she didn’t query a NY house with it, but she didn’t, so now we can have this for a steal.
Two years ago, Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can see, hear, and talk to ghosts with unfinished business. Her crime came with a hefty price, too. She has two years to help a hundred souls cross over to the afterlife or her soul is bound for hell. Tough break.
As if that weren’t bad enough, two days before her deadline a handsome pain-in-the-ass poltergeist named Michael strolls into her life. His soul is the key to her salvation, but the cost just might be more than she can handle. Solving his death puts her right in the crosshairs of Belial: a vain, bloodthirsty archdemon who won’t rest until she’s his slave. Can she rescue Michael and save her own soul, or will they both be dragged down into the clutches of the eternal black parade?
The book isn’t without its issues. The protagonist occasionally strays into immature territory, which caused me to mumble, “Jordan, adult better” a couple of times. I wanted a stronger characterizations from the side characters in a few places. Oh, and the book takes place over the period of several months. It works well, but some people prefer a continuous narrative. But overall, I finished it and enjoyed it, which terribly surprised me for all of the reasons listed above. I bought the second one.
Your mileage may, will, and should vary, and, as always, I recommend downloading a sample. It’s free at BN, iTunes, and on KU and
is offered at $2.99 FREE, it is FREE today on Kindle. for those who don’t have it. That’s a price of a novella and at $3 this thing is a bargain. Best of all there are 4 more, so if you like the first one, there is plenty to glom.
Author’s website: http://shewhowritesmonsters.com/
Happy reading. 😉