Vicious Grace is the third book in MLN Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter series. The series name didn't mean much in the first book. It was a curiousity in the second book. And now, as I finish the third book, it is the subject of much contemplation. I will include that contemplation at the end of this review, but I will do it in spoiler text.
I started Vicious Grace last night after getting my daughters into bed and intended to just read for an hour and then go to bed early. Considering that I turned my light off after 2:00 this morning - it didn't quite work out that way. Vicious Grace is a page turner, be prepared for it to be very hard to put down.
Here is the blurb:
For the first time in forever, Jayné Heller's life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them. At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it's straining to be free. Jayné is primed to take on whatever's about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along—taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul. . . .
When we first began learning about Grace Memorial's lengthy history I stopped reading so I could search for a picture of this interesting building. While most of the Chicago landmarks in the story did seem to be real (it's been a while since I've been in Chicago, but the descriptions sounded pretty familiar), it appears that the hospital is a figment of the author's imagination. Probably a wise move, because some pretty rough stuff happens in this hospital, and if I lived there I might think twice before admitting myself or a loved one after reading Vicious Grace. Yes, it's fiction... but it's still creepy. I loved that the author uses the labyrinthine designs of most hospitals as part of the plot. Grace Memorial becomes not just a setting, but a character. I wondered at first at the detailed history we were given of the building, but it makes sense now - it was part of the character building.
There is one issue I had with Vicious Grace -- Mr. Hanover treads over the edge of horror. I enjoy Urban Fantasy: I do not enjoy horror. I can't say exactly where the line is, what makes it go from dark fantasy to horror, but I am pretty sure Vicious Grace steps over the line. There is a song in the book, one that goes to the tune of a pretty well known hymn, that may very well have been the tipping point for me. I came very close to knocking off a point for scaring the bejeebers out of me somewhere after midnight last night, but in the end I did not.
There were so many things going on here... the interpersonal relationships, the main supernatural plot, and Jayné's personal growth. It doesn't sound like so much when I write them like that, but those items weave around and create their own plots and their own dramas and it just works.
As for the writing elements, the plot is genius and works well with what we've learned in previous books, the pacing is exceptionally well done, prose is beautiful and awe inspiring, dialogue is fine, and character development is stellar. World-building is detailed and imaginative and creative and refreshing. Oh, and scary. Horrific even, at times.
- Book Rating: Vicious Grace: 10 of 10
- Series Rating: Black Sun's Daughter: 10 of 10
And now, for my discussion about the ending, and what that may mean for book four:
I don't think she has a rider, I think she is someone or something. Something good, I hope. Something that the bad guy, the hog-swarmer (heh), didn't like... so maybe that means The Black Sun's Daughter is good. For this to work, my theory is that her mother was ridden by The Black Sun for a short time, and it was then that the "affair" happened, and then that she got pregnant with Jayné - somehow this supernatural essence made it's way into the child, and thus Jayné is supernaturally special. This would be when Eric discovered the world of riders --when he had to rescue his brother's wife from one. At a guess, the "missing weekend" would be when Jayné's powers came to her, and Eric maybe bound them somehow so she wouldn't know about them yet? I'm a bit fuzzy on that, but I'm guessing that he did something so that they would be there if needed, but that she wouldn't have to deal with them just yet. I haven't completely ruled out the rider possibility, but it just feels right that she's got supernatural abilities and not a rider. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)
1. Unclean Spirits
2. Darker Angels
3. Vicious Grace
4. Killing Rites (Fall 2011)