maandag 21 november 2011

Laurell K. Hamilton – Merry Gentry series

Published between 2000 and 2009.

A kiss of shadows
A caress of twilight
Seduced by moonlight
A stroke of midnight
A lick of Frost
Swallowing Darkness

The past week I have immersed myself again in the wondrous world of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series. It is one of my comfort reads, I absolutely love this world. So, instead of writing a review about each book, I will write a series summary.

The lands of faery have been residing in the United States ever since the last war between the courts in Europe. They have gotten sanctuary from president Jefferson on two conditions: no war upon American soil, and they are not allowed to be worshipped as gods. The sidhe have willingly given up much of their power, but lately they have been fading. The objects of power have disappeared, and they themselves have diminished in power, and in fertility. The last child born to the sidhe was Princess Meredith Nic Essus, 33 years ago. Her aunt is Queen Andais, of the Unseelie sidhe. Her father was her beloved brother, until someone killed him when Merry was 16 years. Her mother belonged to the Seelie sidhe, and their marriage was only based on politics. Meredith’s uncle is King Taranis of the Seelie sidhe.
As Meredith does not only have both Seelie and Unseelie bloodlines, but is also part human and part brownie, neither courts wants her. She is just not Seelie enough. Due to her human blood, she is mortal, and they cannot forgive her for that. Centuries ago, the sidhe always bred true, no matter who they mated with, the children would be fully sidhe. But no longer. And there are almost no new children born in either court.

Meredith is third in the line of succession for the Unseelie thrown, and fifth for the Seelie thrown, but neither court want her to ever succeed in that. Meredith doesn’t want the thrown either, she wants to stay alive. And for that reason she fled Faery three years ago, and managed to stay hidden, living in Los Angeles. Due to her human blood, she doesn’t fade away with home sickness, she can survive in the mortal world filled with manmade metal and buildings. Which doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss it. But she likes her new life and her job at Gray’s detective agency. Until some case goes totally wrong, and she is exposed.

Her aunt wants her back at court, and has sent her favourite guard, Doyle, Darkness, to fetch her. Someone else wants her dead though, and he has convinced King Sholto of the Sluagh to do just that. But Sholto has his own agenda, and he wants something else from Meredith. Hunted by both, Merry tries to escape, but you cannot outrun the Darkness. The thing is, Queen Andais is infertile, she has spoken numerous human doctors, and she has to face the truth. If she wants a child of her bloodline on the thrown after her, she has to have Merry back. And so she offers Merry and her own son Cel, who is extremely cruel (like his mother, who is a sexual sadist) the opportunity: whoever gets pregnant first, Merry, or one of Cel’s bedmates, will get the thrown. Merry is to bed as many of the Royal Guards as she can. Merry really does not want it, but she has little choice if she wants to life. And to give up all of fairy to Cel’s sickness, is not something she can allow.

Both the Seelie and Unseelie sidhe used to be deities of nature, but living on American soil has changed that. They ape the humans in everything, in a futile try to be as fertile as they are, embracing monogamy. That was not the way things were before. When a couple produced a child, they are to marry, love or not.

But not all of faery is Seelie or Unseelie, there are many courts. Like the Goblins, and the Demi-Fey or the Sluagh. Merry’s father saw to it that she educated in the customs of each court, and strangely enough, she was more safe at the courts of the Sluagh or the Goblins, then with the glittering court of the Seelie, or the dark court of the Unseelie sidhe. And so she makes alliances with the Goblins and the Demi Fey. In exchange for her blood, they will be her allies, but only for a short period of time.

And so Merry and her chosen guards go back to Los Angeles, trying to make a living, and getting pregnant. But court politics won’t stop with Merry out of faery, the attacks keep coming.

The Goddess is using Merry to restore the magic to Faery, but no matter what happens, the sidhe won’t accept her. She brings back to live the roses, the hidden gardens, old relics and sidhe powers. And still they are afraid of her mortality. The guards however, love her. After a thousand years of forced celibacy, they can have sex again, but only with Merry. At first they don’t care for her, only for the chance to have sex again. But when they get to know her, and that she genuinely cares about them, and all of faery, the come to admire and love her. As Merry is falling in love with some of them. They can’t always keep her safe, they still have to obey Queen Andais. And the Queen hates Merry, hates that she is forced to keep her word, and refuses to see the evil in her only son Cel. O she likes the magic and power Merry is bringing back to her and her court, but it is not dark enough for her tastes. When the Goddess gave Merry the choice to bring back life to the dying lands of faery, she could do so by blood and death, or by sex and life. And Merry, being descendent from 5 different fertility deities, choose life. Queen Andais once had the same choice, and she chose blood and death. She revels in torture and blood and hates Merry’s too bright Sidhe side.

A lot happens in this series, each book has its own battles to fight, and new magics to discover. New men in Merry’s bed, and new enemies, new intrigues.

Yes, there is a lot of sex in those books, and you all know I am not into erotica. But I love those books, and the sex is fitting. Sex is the way Merry can bring back the magic to faery, the powers her lovers have lost, and everything. And of course, she desperately needs to get pregnant. She has to learn to be a real Princess, and perhaps someday Queen. She needs the guards to obey her, and not to be a puppet. So they need to respect her, and her choices. She knows her way with politics, and in the end, her guards are only men, with all their weaknesses and strengths, and to deal with all those different personalities is very tiring and difficult at times. But Merry has to be strong, and has to live with the decisions she makes.

If you like urban fantasy, a bit dark at times, but with a really really great world building, and awesome characters that grow on you, you really should try to read this series. You have to read past all the sex scenes (or enjoy them!) and follow the story itself. Which is just great. The main characters, the secondary characters, all the beings that make up faery, or live outside of faerie. I have read those books at least 5 times now, and they are still fresh and enchanting me. Keepers on my shelf forever more.

10 stars

7 opmerkingen:

  1. Now this is how to tackle a review of a series :D Good work. I am yet to try her books, there are so many out there! I faint by the prospect of all those I want

  2. Thank you! I hope you will read those sometime.

  3. I might be tempted but some things you've noticed seem deceptively like Anita Blake...a lot of sex, plenty of those two compare in your opinion?

  4. O that is a tricky question Anachronist, as I love both series.
    I guess Anita Blake starts out all virgin like, holding out for marriage. And as she gets more powers, and she needs sex to feed l'Ardeur, she collects more and more men, both shifters and vampires.
    Merry Gentry is a feary princess, her ancestors are fertility deites (goddesses). So sex is in her nature, and it is or was also normal in the world of the sidhe to have sex and not be monogamous. Merry has to get pregnant as soon as possible, and through sex, the goddess uses her to bring magic back to faery.
    In this world, no shapeshifters or vampires. But all kind of fae and magic. Blood magic, sex magic, nature magic. Merry doesn't mind the sex, but she also does not want to have a partner she hates or loathes just because the Queen orders it. She finds a way around that. Because when she gets pregnant, she will have her King, if she loves him or not.
    As in Anita Blake her new powers make her have sex with strangers, and she loathes that, in Merry Gentry, she knows who she is having sex with and doesn't mind as she likes sex. It is not overly detailed as in erotica and the men are not food to her. She has to like them first.

    Ooo this is really difficult to explain. I guess you should just try to read the first one. A lot of sex, but with a purpose, not just as book filling.

  5. Another series that I loved in the beginning, but meandered from for my own weird reasons. I think this was my intro to the world of Seelie and Unseelie courts.


  6. Ok, thanks for your detailed explanation, I might try the first installment!

  7. I am a BIG fan of AB and MG. Just started the Mg series last week and is now on the swallowing Darkness. Sometimes I think that MG and AB get to be a little to much the same but then also not. One thig that does irritate me of Anita, is that she over talks her issues. Man that is tiring. But yes I'm in love with Doyle, Frost and Mistral. Oh and Jean Claude and Asher and even Richard