The Better Part of Darkness is a debut novel written by Kelly Gay. The sequel to this urban fantasy, The Darkest Edge of Dawn, is supposed to be released in August 2010.
Charlie Madigan works for Atlanta’s Integration Task Force, which monitors immigrants whether they are from this dimension or one of the two other dimensions discovered thirteen years before. Together with her partner Hank, a siren from one of these other dimensions, she is called in to investigate a student found unconscious on the bathroom floor at a local school. It turns out that Charlie knows the girl rather well – Amanda has been a baby-sitter and a sort of big sister to her twelve-year-old daughter Emma. Further examination reveals that Amanda is a victim of ash, a dangerous drug suspected to be from another world about which very little is currently known. Charlie determines to discover the truth about ash; meanwhile, she must also contend with the foggy memories of her recent resurrection from the dead and the strange occurrences that have been happening to her ever since.
After seeing rave reviews about The Better Part of Darkness and reading the first few pages, I was really looking forward to reading this book and moved it way up my to-read pile. It seemed fast-paced and easy to get into, and as far as I’m concerned, an urban fantasy without vampires is always a plus. The alternate world with beings from other dimensions instead of the usual paranormal suspects sounded intriguing. At first, I did enjoy this book, but toward the end I found I was bored with it and only reading it to finish it and move on to the next book. It’s been hard for me to figure out why because there is nothing that stands out to me as irritating or bad about this novel. I simply lost interest before it was over. At first I thought maybe it was because one of the first urban fantasy series I started with was Mercy Thompson and I love Mercy as a character so much that everything else falls short. Even so, I still really enjoyed several books in the genre I read after that and didn’t think were quite as good, though – Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre and Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, for instance.
Largely, it may have been because it just seemed to lack character depth. Charlie may appear slightly different since in spite of being the typical smart-mouthed cop urban fantasy heroine with some vulnerability, she is also a divorced single mother raising a preteen daughter. Overall, she just didn’t feel unique to me, and all the other characters felt like they had a couple of interesting surface characteristics or quirks but no real personality that made them just come alive to me. Even though the villian did have motives for what he did, he felt very cookie-cutter evil to me and I tend to like characters who have some redeeming qualities instead of just seeming dastardly all the time. There was one character who had some definite potential, but he did not show up nearly often enough to make up for the rest.
The plot was fast-moving and it did have some high points, such as learning about what really happened with Charlie’s death and what kinds of consequences her resurrection had. Yet it still was not compelling enough to really make me want to read more.
The Better Part of Darkness had some interesting ideas for a different take on an urban fantasy world, but the characters failed to capture me. Quite frankly, I was tired of the book by the end and ready to just be done with it and move on to a new book. It wasn’t a bad book but it also wasn’t one that made me eager to read the next one in the series. However, I do seem to be in the minority since most people loved this one, so if it sounds at all interesting, perhaps it would be a good idea to read some of the other reviews linked to.
Where I got my reading copy: It was sent to me by the publisher.