No Humans Involved, by Kelley Armstrong

>> Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TITLE: No Humans Involved (read Prologue, Chapter 1)
AUTHOR: Kelley Armstrong

PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Bantam Spectra

SETTING: Contemporary (mostly Los Angeles)
TYPE:Paranormal fiction / romance
SERIES: Book #7 in the Women of the Otherworld series.

REASON FOR READING: I really liked Bitten, the first book in this series, but I never did read the follow-ups. I vaguely meant to continue reading some time or another, but I definitely never intended to skip 5 books and go straight to number 7! Thing is, the online buzz got me. I remember seeing good comments at Jennie's, at Devon's and at Alyssa's, and since I was assured that I probably wouldn't feel lost if I read NHI, I decided to go for it.

It's the most anticipated reality television event of the season: three spiritualists gathered together in one house to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. For celebrity medium Jaime Vegas, it is to be her swan song--one last publicity blast for a celebrity on the wrong side of forty. But unlike her colleagues, who are more show than substance, Jaime is the real thing.

Reluctant to upstage her fellow spiritualists, Jaime tries to suppress her talents, as she has done her entire life. But there is something lurking in the maze of gardens behind the house: a spirit without a voice. And it won't let go until somehow Jaime hears its terrible story. For the first time in her life, Jaime Vegas understands what humans mean when they say they are haunted. Distraught, Jaime looks to fellow supernatural Jeremy Danvers for help.

As the touches and whispers from the garden grow more frantic, Jaime and Jeremy embark on an investigation into a Los Angeles underworld of black magic and ritual sacrifice. When events culminate in a psychic showdown, Jaime must use the darkest power she has to defeat a shocking enemy--one whose malicious force comes from the last realm she expected.... In a world whose surface resembles our own, Kelley Armstrong delivers a stunning alternate reality, one where beings of the imagination live, love, and fight a never-ending battle between good and evil.
THE PLOT: Jaime Vegas (whose name I kept seeing as Jamie in my mind, as Jaime is a male name in Spanish) is a medium and a necromancer. Unlike most in the Otherworld, who try as best they can to keep out of the public eye, Jaime hides in plain sight: she's a pretty well-known TV medium. Mostly she fakes it, but sometimes she does make use of her ability to talk with dead people.

The book starts as Jaime is about to participate in a stunt of a reality show, in a bid to finally get the solo TV show she's always been convinced she wants. She and two other mediums are supposed to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, and to that effect, they're all staying in a house in an LA celebrity suburb.

It's not only Jaime's professional life that seems set to take a turn to the better, but also her personal life. Her longtime crush, werewolf alpha Jeremy Danvers (who I did remember quite well from Bitten) has accepted her invitation to come to LA for a while, and Jaime is convinced that he might be willing to take their friendly relationship to the next level.

But (obviously), things don't go exactly as planned, and the first sign of trouble comes when Jaime feels something very strange in the house's garden. It's spirits, but not the kind of spirits Jaime has ever known (and she does have a vast experience in this area). These spirits seem somehow drained and fractured, and before long, Jaime is having to combine the Marilyn shoot (which has developed its own complications) with an investigation into what might have happened to these spirits and how she might be able to free them. In this she has the help of Jeremy, and other supernaturals in the area... a good thing, really, as the investigation soon develops some dangerous edges.

MY THOUGHTS: The first thing I should mention is that those who told me I'd be ok skipping straight to this one were quite right. I could see plenty of instances where it was obvious that there were some stories behind them (complicated stories, too), but it never got confusing. All kinds of people with all kinds of powers make appearances here, but rather than irritating me or making me think Armstrong was indulging in fan-wanking, I was intrigued and anxious to go read their stories (Eve's especially... am I understanding this correctly and she's dead during her book? Now, that I've got to read!). Anyway, all these characters and their varied powers played important roles here and their presence here was relevant to the plot, and that made all the difference.

All aspects of NHI were excellent. The mystery of what happened to the spirits is intriguing (even if we readers are given some clues about what went on that the characters don't have) and so are the paths Jamie's investigation takes. Some sections are definitely not for the faint-of-heart, but even though the stomach-turning quality of the violence in Bitten had been one of the reasons I didn't continue reading the series, I was fine with it here.

I also loved the sections dealing with the reality show and the other mediums. Those injected some lighter touches and quite a lot of humour, which balanced the darker aspects of the disturbed spirits' plot nicely.

Of course, given that the book is told in first-person, it's fortunate that we get a wonderful narrator. Jaime is just great. She's got a lovely sense of humour, with just the right amount of self-deprecation, and a nicely skewed way of looking at the world. I liked that she's a very nice, decent person (witness her interactions with the other mediums), but not so "nice" as to allow people to walk over her.

From what I understood here, Jaime has featured in some of the previous books, where she's always been the one who has had to be rescued. Her powers aren't as... well-suited for combat, I guess, as those of other supernaturals (though the scene where she finds a way to twist this is just awesome), and she has a bit of a need to prove herself because of it. She fears the other members of the Interracial Council see her as a liability, someone who can provide insight into her area, but not a good candidate for a job that actually involves the least danger. Well, she definitely proves herself here, but she doesn't do it by running off half-cocked and getting everyone into danger. She's not stupid about it and takes all the reasonable precautions, as far from TSTL as she could get.

And then there's the romance. Ahhhh, the romance. That was just lovely as well. I really loved seeing serious, responsible Jeremy, who's always put his duty to the pack before any personal satisfaction, get the girl. At first I thought he was almost too controlled, and wasn't sure this was the right person for quirky Jaime. Well, that was right until the point where I realized that he's getting a huge kick out of helping her in the investigation and being able to actually do something. As the alpha of the pack, he's much too valuable to be allowed to get into danger, and the poor guy is a bit frustrated by having to send his pack-members out to have the fun, while he has to stay by the fire.

I also loved that these two are very much mature grown-ups, and they relate to each other as such. There are no silly games, stupid assumptions or misunderstandings here: they like and trust each other enough to put their feelings and intentions out in the open quite soon, and they deal with the issues that could keep them apart before they start anything. That doesn't mean their relationship is boring or staid, however. On the contrary, this is majorly hot! I'd seen people sighing about the balcony scene, and it was as good as I could have wanted.

MY GRADE: An A-. I'm very motivated to go back and read the whole series now.


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