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Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel (Meredith Gentry, Book 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Cover Artist: Don Sipley
Review by Drew Bittner
Ballantine Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345495969
Date: 08 December 2009 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Having renounced the crown of the Unseelie Court, Merry Gentry thought she was due for some "happily ever after" with two babies on the way and six consorts (not to mention assorted other lovers).

Nothing is ever that easy.

In Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K. Hamilton picks up the story of Princess Meredith NicEssus, rightful queen of the Unseelie and goblin courts. Merry and her men are trying to enjoy life in LA, far from the politics of her mad aunt Andais back in St. Louis, but a string of murders and a number of restless underlings are making that impossible.

To start, a number of lesser fey are being murdered by someone with the power and skill to take down faery folk. This is no mean trick; even a tiny fey can kill a grown man. Clearly, this is a danger to the entire community and they turn to Merry for leadership in this moment of crisis. Struggling to cope with her dual pregnancy, Merry is not sure that she's up to the challenge, but what choice does she have?

At the same time, her followers--such as her late father's good friend Barinthus (formerly Mannan Mac Lir, Celtic god of the sea)--are unhappy with Merry's decision to renounce her birthright. Merry learns that walking away from a crown doesn't mean politics are all over; she has to come to terms with some very harsh truths about responsibility and trust.

With help from her detective friend Lucy, Merry delves into the mystery of these murders, turning up much that she never suspected about desire and love between fey and human, even as her own relationships are cast in a new light. There are serious strains beginning to show and Merry's alliances are starting to fray, revealing dangers she hadn't even suspected. It seems that she is not done with Unseelie politics after all--at least, not if the Goddess has anything to say about it.

The Merry Gentry series has been candidly adult in nature from the start, but this installment begins to delve into some deeper issues than sexual politics and intimacy. Merry has to learn some of the rules of leadership, many of which are not a comfortable fit with her open and honest personality. In short, some of her allies fear she is not devious or ruthless enough for the job. In this book, she begins to show that those fears are unfounded. It's a significant step forward for her as a character, especially when she starts to realize that madness apparently runs in her family and she may not be immune.

Doyle (aka Darkness) and Frost (aka the Killing Frost) are stalwart as ever, immutable fixtures around which Merry's world largely revolves. They anchor her in important ways, even though one becomes a potential flashpoint for trouble with an important ally later on. Nevertheless, they are stable and reliable supporting characters, about whom a bit more tantalizing clues are revealed.

The characters who see real growth this time around are Merry's second tier of lovers, including Rhys, Galen, Sholto and Kitto. Each has a major moment in the story where their own character arc is moved forward: Rhys, for instance, acquires a sithin (faery home) of his own. Plus the Goddess is at work, creating a mystic link between Merry and the soldiers who protected her in the last book. Odd things are happening on that front and readers should expect to see that subplot develop in future novels.

The ultimate point of the story is far less about the murders than in how Merry handles the responsibility of leading her community. As noted above, she has to learn that just because she walked away from power doesn't mean she does not wield it regardless. It's an eye-opening realization, with many implications yet to be sorted out--the least being, she is far from finished with her aunt Andais or her equally vicious uncle Taranis of the Seelie Court.

Which is great, by the way. Merry works best when she faces enemies far stronger than she is herself.

Hamilton's writing has a relaxed and fun way about it here, which makes the reading extremely fast-paced and very enjoyable. Fans of her work will be delighted by this new release, while readers who enjoy a very adult fantasy might find this to their liking as well.

Recommended.

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