Believe it or not, I don’t read urban fantasy. But an autobuy author is an autobuy author, so when Ann Aguirre’s Blue Diablo turned up at Galaxy, I just had to have it without knowing anything about the plot. It turns out that Aguirre’s new series uses Mexican beliefs in the supernatural, and this is only one of the many things I love about the book.
Corine Solomon is a handler. She has the ability to touch an object and see its history—or sometimes its future—but it’s a gift that comes with a price. After her last job almost killed her, she left her life, her past and especially her lover to set up a small shop in Mexico City where no one knows about her ability. So when her ex suddenly appears, her dreams of a safe, comfortable existence are shattered.
Chance asks for Corine’s help to find a missing person—and it’s not a request she can refuse because it’s someone they both love. But working closely with Chance isn’t going to be easy because: a) Corine isn’t fully over him yet; b) Chance says he never got over her and wants her back; c) they can’t seem to tell each other what they need; and d) Chance has his own gift that more often than not puts Corine in danger.
And if that’s not complicated enough, their search uncovers supernatural forces way beyond anything they’ve encountered before. Where Corine’s previous experience has mostly been with the evilness of humans, now she has to face an evil warlock, summoned spirits and even zombies. They can’t fight without help, but it’s difficult to know whom to trust. But most of all, now that Chance is back in her life, Corine isn’t sure she can ever go back to her safe life … and the more time she spends with Chance, the less sure she is that it’s what she really wants.
Thank god there are no vampires
Blue Diablo’s world is a refreshing change from vampires and angels and demons and werewolves. Well, there are demons, but they’re not like the demons I’m familiar with. A lot of the mythology behind Blue Diablo remains elusive, which might bother you if you want to understand everything NOW, but because there are so many things going on—the suspense plot, the mystery plot, the romance plot—it makes sense not to dwell too much on things that either the characters already know or that they don’t have enough time to investigate.
Truthfully, I’m finding it difficult to put together my thoughts on the way magic and supernatural powers are treated in Blue Diablo. I have a Filipino background, and for me, many of the superstitions and beliefs that Aguirre incorporates into the story are actually very familiar—magical charms and wards, seances, spirit possession, the ease in accepting that someone has supernatural talents, the almost casual way that people reveal gifts that run through their families. So I’m not sure if there are aspects of the magic that would be surprising to someone else. For me, at least, a lot of what I like to think of as folk magic rings true.
I’m not so sure about some of the later characters and powers that are revealed. Towards the end, there was such a mishmash of characters and displays of supernatural abilities—and in particular, the Hand of God—that I kind of got lost. For me the most interesting powers are the ones possessed by the main characters. Corine’s power is unusual because she wasn’t born with it—it was given to her by her mother in a particularly violent sacrifice. (Don’t be fooled by the book cover—Corine’s more hippie chic than femme fatale, and my image of her isn’t as physically tough as the cover implies.) Chance’s power—the ability to manipulate luck—is unpredictable and often dangerous to others around him. Jesse, who becomes Corine’s mentor, is an empath, but it means that he can’t always trust his own emotions because sometimes he’s not sure if they’re really his or if he’s mirroring someone else’s. And then, there’s Butch the chihuahua.
There are a lot of dead bodies by the end of this book, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Aguirre loves the carnage. The gratuitous zombie attack in the later part of the story is unapologetic and described with gruesome relish. Frankly, I don’t understand why there had to be zombies, but by god it sounds like she had fun writing the scene.
I love the way Aguirre makes it plausible for Corine and Chance to survive the many dangers they face: Chance’s luck. I don’t know if she did that on purpose, but it means never having to wonder how they could possibly surivive being shot at by who knows how many snipers and bodyguards. I mean, a hunded things could still go wrong and there are worse things to be in this world than dead, but it helps that I never had to stop and wonder if mercenaries these days need more training in hitting their targets.
The reason I don’t read urban fantasy
Blue Diablo, it has a love triangle. I know: AAAAARGH! Granted, Corine’s two love interests both seem to want the best for her, and neither is perfect. But still. I LOVE CHANCE and if she doesn’t end up with him, I’ll be bitterly disappointed.
Basically, Corine left Chance because she didn’t feel he valued her enough, that she loved him way more than he loved her. He’s something of a hottie and not very demonstrative, so she worries about not being attractive enough to keep his attention, and she also thinks that he values her gift as a handler more than he values her as a person. At the core of their relationship is their inability to tell each other how they feel and what they want—Corine because she’s thinks Chance will never love her as much as she loves him, and Chance because, I suspect, he’s not sure that he’s good for her, given the consequences of his gift.
Jesse Saldano is a cop they meet in the course of their search for the missing person, and he’s gifted with empathy. He becomes Corine’s mentor and is supposed to introduce her to the underground world of gifted people that she never knew existed. For Corine, Jesse represents stability and community—things she never had with Chance. To add to the confusion, Corine’s longing for love, acceptance and an escape from the complications that her gift seems to invite brings out Jesse’s white knight complex (which is driven by his gift). And, really, Jesse does treat her more gently and he’s more thoughtful—again, it’s partly driven by his gift, but it’s a reminder to Corine of the times when she feels that Chance fails to put her first in his life. (And Chance, being your typical male, is clueless.)
So why do I love Chance? Because I love stories about reunited lovers. And I also think he challenges Corine. He’s not the safe choice; Jesse is. And while in real life I might advise a friend to take the safe guy, in romance fiction, I’m all for the broody, inscrutable alpha male who needs a kick-arse female to show him how to love totally and unconditionally. *sigh*
Okay, if I’m totally honest, the love triangle makes the romance plot more compelling. Aguirre is masterful when she explores Corine’s ambivalence and they’re some of my favourite parts of the story. And obviously, I love it when Chance gets growly:
“He wants to take me to dinner while we’re in town.”
Yeah, I made it sound personal. Sue me. Chance owed me for a lot of bad moments over the years, wondering whether he wanted me or just my gift. Wondering whether he slept with me to keep me biddable.
His hands tightened on the wheel, incredulity and … jealousy? … warring in his voice. “You made a date with him?”
I shrugged. “Why shouldn’t I? I’m pretty good in bed. Maybe I can win some influence with him. Get him to break some rules. How’s that different from the way you pimped me?”
He cut me a daggered look as we turned into the parking lot of a shitty La Quinta Inn. “Were you always such a bitch?”
“Why didn’t I notice?”
Because I cared desperately what you thought of me then.
I shrugged. “Why didn’t you notice a lot of things?”
“I have no idea,” he said, sounding dazed. “But it turns me on something wicked.”
I peeked at his lap as he parked the car and decided he wasn’t kidding.
To be clear: I’m not averse to Corine and Jesse yanking his chain to make him sit up and pay attention, but like I said, I’ll be heartbroken if he doesn’t end up with her.
The reason I’m reading this urban fantasy … and the next
To me, it’s all about trust. I trust Aguirre to treat her characters and readers well, and to write the story so that I end up on the side of whomever Corine ends up with. Hopefully, Chance.
Beyond the romance, Blue Diablo has all the characteristics of what I love about Aguirre’s writing. Her characters are complex, they have backgrounds that may or may not be fully revealed, but most of all, they all try to make decisions that are best for them. Her characters’ actions are driven by their own individual motivations and I reckon it must be a challenge to co-ordinate their actions against the backdrop of the rather complicated external plot.
This series, although written in the first person, utilises the ensemble cast much more than Aguirre does in her Jax series. I suspect this will mean a much longer story arc with more books in the series, but since most of them intrigue me and Aguirre’s writing style is generally tightly focused, I have high hopes.
I’m absolutely looking forward to the next book in this series. I have a feeling it’s going to centre more on Corine’s past and I’m so curious to know more about her gift and her parents. I’m also hoping that we’ll see Chance forced to protect her. Not because I think she’s weak, but because I think he needs to show her how much he does care for her.
Yay or nay
Yay for new approaches to urban fantasy and magic, and yay for Chance. (I’ll add a yay for Jesse but only if he ends up with someone other than Corine. *g*) Blue Diablo has whetted my appetite for this series, and as long as Aguirre doesn’t lose sight of her characters and what makes them tick (ahem, ex-autobuy authors) then I’m more than happy to come along for the ride. And if I sound like a fan girl, well, that’s because I am.
Blue Diablo is due for release on April 7, but it looks like the book has arrived in Australia early. :-)
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Galaxy | Intrigue | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Romantic Reflections | Siren | The Nile | More
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Dymocks | eBooks.com | Fictionwise | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Borders