In the Midnight Hour, by Patti O'Shea

>> Friday, August 28, 2009

TITLE: In the Midnight Hour
AUTHOR: Patti O'Shea

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 320
PUBLISHER: Tor

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: First in the Light Warriors series

REASON FOR READING: I've loved some of O'Shea's previous books, especially Ravyn's Flight and The Power of Two.

Ryne is a magical troubleshooter, sworn to protect the innocent from being harmed by magic—and she's been chasing Anise, her former mentor, for six years.

Deke is a private investigator who knows something key to defeating Anise. But Anise cast a dark spell over him, and even though Ryne has managed to temporarily lift the curse, Deke can't remember what it is that he knows.

Ryne has sworn to never get involved with a human, but Deke is sexy, charming, brave and irresistible—and as Ryne and Deke are pulled further into Anise's evil schemes, it's harder and harder for Ryne to resist the attraction.

But dark magic has its own attraction, and in order to defeat Anise and lift Deke's curse permanently, Ryne will have to risk following in Anise's footsteps and succumbing to the lure of the darkness...
In The Midnight Hour didn't start out well. I was very close to putting it down quite close to the beginning. The book begins with a long fight scene, which was written well enough, but made me fear I might be in for many of them. I'm afraid well written or not, constant long fight scenes are not my cup of tea. But ok, good, we've established we've got a pretty kick-ass heroine in Ryne.

Then, after some ground-laying about the mythology and the heroine's powers (pretty cool stuff), we find out that she wants to rescue a guy who's stuck within a cartoon character, a TV show cartoon character. A bit of a WTF moment there, but I kept on, growing doubts or no growing doubts.

She does a ritual to rescue this cartoon character guy, and then came the scene that had me throwing up my hands. She wakes up, and there's a sleeping naked guy in her bed, who turns out to be the man she rescued from the cartoon (yay, the ritual has worked!). Then follows a strange scene which has her carefully trying to extricate herself from this guy (who's naked and seems determined to rub himself against her) without waking him. Er, why? He then wakes up and when he's told he's just spent the last few years under a spell that had him stuck in a cartoon character, this man who never before suspected the existence of magic at all seems more interested in wisecracking and getting a rise out of Ryne by calling her "babe", than anything else. Do these seem like the actions of half-way normal people?

Ok, let's back up. The heroine, Ryne Frasier, is a Gineal. Gineals are a race with magical powers, living alongside normal humans. Most use their powers for good, but some cross over to the dark side, and prey on humans. Ryne is a Troubleshooter, and her job is to go after these practitioners of dark magic. Troubleshooters are generally highly regarded, but Ryne is viewed mostly with suspicion, because she was apprenticed with a woman, Anise, who turned to the dark side. People, including many on the Council which regulates Troubleshooters, don't understand how she missed the signs of Anise's increasing use of dark forces, and are not completely sure she's not herself given over to the dark side.

It is Anise that Ryne is after when the book starts. Watching a cartoon on TV she looks notices eyes of one of the characters, P.I. Deke Summers, and realises that there is a real person inside. Something tells her this person is key to her defeating Anise, as his current state is obviously her doing, so she becomes determined to find a way to get him out. And yes, I'm aware of how ridiculous, even cartoonish, this bit of the plot is. It's the book's weakest point. It would have worked much better in a light-hearted comedy, but this is quite an intense book otherwise, with characters with some real issues, so the cartoon thing just jarred.

Obviously, given the scene I described above, Ryne succeeds in getting the human Deke Summers out of his cartoon prison, but it turns out his reprieve's only temporary and he's still in danger of being dragged back into the TV show. Ryne and Deke have to discover how to keep him out, and as they race to do this and discover exactly what it is that Deke knows that made Anise stick him into cartoon-land, they also have to deal with a growing attraction.

I liked many things about ITMH. Ryne is an interesting character. It's not easy for her to deal with the mistrust of the other Gineal, especially because although she's innocent of what they believe of her, she feels guilty because she believes she should have noticed what Anise was doing. Not to mention that to rescue Deke she has to dabble in magic that's verging on dark, and she becomes aware of exactly why someone would succumb. Her struggles not to actually give in to the fascination of the dark side are very well done, as is her guilt at actually feeling this attraction.

Deke was all right, but a somewhat less interesting character than Ryne. I liked the way O'Shea showed his struggle with the fact that after his stint in cartoon-land, his character's fake cartoon memories have become meshed with his real-life ones from before, so he has to work at distinguishing what's true and what's not. He's understandably conflicted about that, but at times it felt to me that he was taking things a bit too much in his stride, especially at the beginning, when he has to take in some very weird things that he never suspected were out there.

The romance is all right, nothing spectacular, and the same thing goes for most of the outside plot. I was intrigued by the mystery of what exactly it was that Deke knew that was so threatening to Anise, and why she seems to be almost holding back when she goes after him again. The answer made sense, and the final confrontation was pretty all right.

MY GRADE: A B-. Quite a few good things, but a bit too much cheese in the premise.

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