“There’s some sort of Soothsayer’s Code that prevents soothsayers from soothsaying on a day-to-day basis, when it might, you know, avert this kind of ordinary, everyday tragedy. Something about the law of causality being broken and the order of creation overturned, resulting in a world run amok, rivers running backward, the sun rising in the west, cats and dogs getting married…”
Daisy Johanssen is mostly human, but her demonic father has left her with two legacies—a tail and a temper, both of which she tries to hide. Daisy was raised by her human mother in Pemkowet, a small Michigan resort town with an eldritch underworld. The Norse goddess Hel took up residence near the town over a hundred years ago, and the supernatural community has thrived in her domain. As a part-time file clerk at the Pemkowet Police Department, Daisy is also Hel’s liaison to the mortal authorities, and charged with dispensing justice to creatures human laws cannot bind. When a college student from the nearby conservative community of Appledoorn drowns in the river, there is suspicion that the case might have a supernatural twist. Teaming up with Officer Cody Fairfax, a closeted werewolf, and Daisy’s childhood crush, Daisy must solve the mystery of Tad Vanderhei’s death, even as his parents and fraternity brothers inexplicably impede the investigation at every turn.
Jacqueline Carey introduces an urban fantasy world with notable similarities to Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, or Charlaine Harris. However, she plays with the conventions and tropes on her own terms. Best known for the erotic fantasy series Kushiel, Dark Currents is surprisingly tame for Carey, although Daisy certainly has some interesting demonic kinks, such a crush on a lamia, which manifests only when the lamia is in her non-human form. Like most urban fantasy series, there is a romantic twist; Daisy struggles with her feelings for Cody, attracts the interest of Stefan Ludovic, the new head ghoul, and the admiration of Sinclair Palmer, a Pemkowet newcomer. Carey has the makings of an interesting cast, but unlike many other lengthy urban fantasy series, Agent of Hel is planned to be a trilogy. The first book lays a lot of groundwork for a complex world with a rich mythology, and it’s hard to imagine it being fully explored in only three books. Daisy also has a lot of personal baggage to work through, from her absent, minor demon father, to her telekinetic temper, to her need to be as good and as happy as possible in an attempt to persuade others to like her despite her demonic heritage.
Just as Daisy is pulled between her sunny human personality and her darker, demonic heritage, Dark Currents has a humourous tone hiding dark secrets. Fairies disguised as children try to kidnap human children at music festivals, or claim children who wander into their territory as prey. Plain old human husbands beat their wives and terrorize their children. And the eventual revelation of the cause of Tad Vanderhei’s death is nothing less than stomach-churning. Carey does a good job of balancing the light and dark elements of her story, as well as balancing the mystery of Tad Vanderhei’s death with the introduction of the eldritch world of Pemkowet. Although not yet quite realized, Agent of Hel has the potential to be a great urban fantasy series.
More Urban Fantasy:
The Dirty Streets of Heaven and Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams
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