Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I have always been a sucker for magic mixed with realism, for me, mundane details about a fantastical premise make everything that much more enjoyable and plausible. Laura Anne Gilman is a master at this style of storytelling, and easily juggles realistic mystery, racial and political infighting, and a rich magical tradition. All of these elements were a slam dunk in her Retrievers series and continue to delight in the spin off Paranormal Scene Investigations books.
Despite inhabiting a parallel time frame to the much beloved Retrievers storyline, I have no difficulty viewing HARD MAGIC and PACK OF LIES
as their own stand alone series. Gilman writes well for a broad audience, providing enough detail for new readers without any danger of overloading us old fans with unnecessary retreads. This is especially true in PACK OF LIES
, which felt like a much more concise, well-balanced read than it’s predecessor. HARD MAGIC did the heavy lifting of establishing Bonnie’s back story and setting up her current job, PACK OF LIES
benefits from that foundation with a fast, thrilling pace from start to finish.
Neither police nor civilians, hired by clients but ultimately working for the truth, the PUPI investigation squad has a lot at stake with every case they take on. Bonnie and her co-workers are blazing new trails, using their magical skills to investigate crimes, and one slip up can seriously damage their credibility with the magical community. I really enjoyed how PUPI is unfettered by traditional police procedural rules. This license is both a blessing and a curse, as it allows them the freedom to gather evidence in new and interesting ways but also forces the team to create workarounds and overcome obstacles to serve justice outside the legal system.
Alongside this satisfying gumshoe-procedural, PACK OF LIES
offers an intimate glimpse of the friendships amongst the PUPI’s. Bonnie is an astute observer, and I enjoyed her take on her co-workers’ relationship dynamics as much as I savored the sexual tension between her and her boss, one of the “Big Dogs”, Ben Venec. Gilman brings as much loving attention to the details that make up her characters’ personal lives as she does to the world they live in, and that pays off in entertaining dialogue, touching interactions, and sexual tension that steams right up off the page. I adore how Gilman takes one of the most clichéd urban fantasy romance tropes and turns it on its head.
Be forewarned, however, that in both relationship and world building, Gilman is not one to rush the climax. Danger simmers around the PUPI’s, even as their own relationships heat up, and PACK OF LIES
leaves plenty of tension for the next installment in the series. Sexual Content
: Mention of rape, discussions of sexual orientation, mild sex scenes.