The Black Sun´s Daughter: Unclean Spirits by MLN Hanover – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Unclean Spirits

Bane of Kings writes a review of Unclean Spirits, the first novel in the Black Sun´s Daughter series, written by MLN Hanover, the pen-name of Daniel Abraham.

“An awesome new star in urban fantasy. Entertaining, Fun, page-turning, Unclean Spirits ticks all the right boxes. Not to be missed for a fan of this genre.” ˜Bane of Kings

How many pen-names does one author need? Daniel Abraham is the author responsible for fantasy novels such as The Dragons Path, but he also goes by not only the name of James SA Corey (co-operating with Ty Frank, mind you) when writing novels like Leviathan Wakes and the upcoming Caliban´s War, and now he has a second pen-name, the name of MLN Hanover, presumably when it comes to writing urban fantasy novels like this one, Unclean Spirits, which happens to be the first novel in the Black Sun´s Daughter series, published by Orbit in the UK.

I don´t normally give urban fantasy novels with female leads a try, and in fact – I rarely give urban fantasy novels with male leads a try bar a few positive (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Vegas Knights by Matt Forbeck and any novel by Justin Gustainis), and one rather average (Benedict Jacka´s Fated) exceptions. So, even though MLN Hanover is the pen name of Daniel Abraham (whose The Dragon´s Path novel won my Best Fantasy Novel of 2011 award), and has written immensely enjoyable fiction in the past, I still had doubts when reading this novel. But, shortly after picking it up, all doubts were quenched and as it turned out, Unclean Spirits turned out to be an awesome read – and you´re about to find out why.

 

In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can’t always play by the rules.

Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn’t quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers — and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.

Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric’s heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means — magical or mundane — so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.

Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions — Aubrey, Eric’s devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities — Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she’ll have to learn the new rules fast — or break them completely…

First of all, this looks like your standard, run-of the mill, average urban fantasy. However, don´t be put off by the cover art, and if the blurb gets to you as well, don´t be put off by that either. Whilst Unclean Spirits is not a completely original tale (I mean, is there anything truly original anymore?), it is a superb, fast-paced, entertaining and enjoyable read.

Although at first Unclean Spirits may look like a paranormal romance novel, you have my assurance that it´s not. It´s urban fantasy, of the most awesome kind (Apart from, of course, The Dresden Files). Sure, there may be the side-helping of a love triangle, but apart from that, the focus is much more on the action and the plot than it is on the romance. The characters are pretty well created and thought out – as well as act together wonderfully. They have plenty of charisma. Jayné (pronounced Zha-Nay) is a powerful, strong and a likeable protagonist, and really grows as a character throughout the novel, and she is the voice of the story, the first-person perspective that we see throughout the first entry into The Black Sun´s Daughter series. Like The Dresden Files, Unclean Spirits is told almost (bar the introduction) entirely in first person POV, and whilst this limits us to events from Jayné´s view, the action scenes are nonetheless awesome.

Don´t fall into the trap then, of thinking that Unclean Spirits is just another Dresden with a female protagonist instead of a male one. The concept of demon ´riders´ (which is the term given to what the cabal of the Invisible College use to harness demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination), aren´t the only thing that separates MLN Hanover´s series from Butcher´s Dresden, oh no, as Jayné herself is a different entirely to Harry, who whilst still remains my favourite Urban Fantasy protagonist, Jayné is so far – one of the few characters that has come close to challenging him for top spot.

Although the ending may be a little bit predictable, with no game-changing twists and turns throughout the novel, but you won´t be able to put this book down if you´re a fan of urban fantasy in particular, and it seems that Daniel Abraham is a strong writer in all genres. I haven´t read a bad book from him yet, and I´m eagerly awaiting the chance to read his Long Price Quartet which, to be honest – I don´t know why I´ve avoided it for so long.

The novel was released at the beginning of the year in the UK, and I gave it a projected Verdict of 4/5 when I included it in my “Notable Sci-Fi/Fantasy” releases of January 2012, so let´s see how it measured up.

Verdict: 4/5

The Black Sun´s Daughter: Unclean Spirits, Darker Angels, Vicious Grace, Killing Rites

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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