Haunted – Kelley Armstrong

(Orbit 2005)

Eve Levine is a half-demon black witch – and dead. She’s living out a rather pleasant ghost-world after-life where she’s able to see living people when she wants: even if they can’t see her. She’s even able to continue a relationship with Kristof Nast, formerly head of one of the powerful sorcerer Cabals, and father of her beloved daughter Savannah. However, she’s jolted out of this existence by the Fates, who call in a favour Eve owes them, and send her off to hunt a malevolent spirit, or Nix, who thrives on chaos and who possesses humans in order to inspire them to kill. The Nix is, however, wily and managed to dispatch the last three people (two angels and a ghost) sent to return the Nix to Hell.

Eve undertakes the job, aided by an angel, Trsiel, who indicates, during the course of the hunt, that the Fates wish to reward Eve, should she succeed in her quest, with the chance to become an angel. This isn’t something she actually wants, however, since it would cut her off from the prospect of ever seeing Savannah again.

The Fates have evidently chosen well – Eve, even in ghost form, is sneaky, untrusting, and a master of witch and sorcerer spells, not to mention she’s an excellent fighter and former athlete. Her only real weakness is the very real love she has for her daughter and Kristof.

Like most of Armstrong’s books, this is told in the first person, and Eve’s voice is very true to her personality (as revealed in previous books). It’s interesting to see how little she thinks of Jaime Vegas, for example, a necromancer who is the protagonist of No Humans Involved, and it’s a credit to Armstrong’s writing that she can give her characters such individuality in their narrative voices. That said, although Eve is an ass-kicking heroine, she’s not an altogether likable character, given her general high opinion of her own talents and monotonous obsession about watching over her daughter – though Savannah is an eminently capable young woman, being cared for by another capable woman. Perhaps if I’d read all of Armstrong’s previous novels, rather than just a couple of them, I would have found Eve’s journey more sympathetic.

While I generally have liked Armstrong’s books, I’m not sure that Haunted is the best of them. I think this is partly due to the supernatural setting of Eve’s ghost world, which appears rather irrational and slightly inconsistent. It appears that Eve retains much of her powers in the ghost world because she is a supernatural ghost rather than an earthly one, but that seems rather illogical to me. Another of the inconsistencies was the general inability of Eve’s angel partner to appear in times of need, despite her calling for him, and it was never explained why. Also, how was the Nix able to bob about in the ghost world, lurking conveniently to overhear key plot points, without being observed?

Part of the interest in the book was how Eve manages to get into the heads of the Nix’s former ‘partners in crime’, and how Armstrong characterises the behaviour of each during the association, and after discovery of their crimes, though she doesn’t go into gory detail. There are moments of humour, such as Eve’s gate-crashing of Jaime’s appearance on television, and Jaime’s exquisitely embarrassing telephone call with Jeremy Danvers, whom she obviously likes, to balance the more unpleasant parts of Eve’s quest, and the interactions between Eve and Kristof are often amusing and sometimes touching.

Armstrong makes sufficient reference in Haunted to past events to make reading it, I assume, a fuller experience if one’s read the previous books (which I haven’t). She does also assume a good deal of familiarity with the way her world is set up – the existence and power of the Cabals, for example, and the Coven of Witches – as well as the characters who appear, so that I’d not recommend it as a good place to start her ‘Women of the Otherworld’ series (which begins with Bitten). I also realised that I’ve read this book out of order (having previously read No Humans Involved, which actually comes after Haunted in the series), which probably didn’t help my comprehension!

This entry was posted in 2010 New Reads, Fantasy, Fiction, Reviews, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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