Seduced By Moonlight by Laura K. Hamilton
Ballantine Books HCVR: ISBN 034544356X PubDate: 02/03/04
Review by Madeleine Yeh
384 pgs. List price $24.00
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This novel is the third in a series starring Meredith Gentry. The previous books, A Kiss Of Shadows and A Caress Of Twilight, introduce the characters and the universe. The series is set in an alternative world where almost all the faeries have migrated to the United States. Some of these people have join the human societies around them, but others remain apart living in various underground mounds. The great courts of the Seelie and Unseelie Sidhe have taken this route.
The first two books established Meredith as a faery princess who lives in Los Angelos, and works for a detective Agency. She had been hiding her identity from everyone, most especially her Aunt Andais, the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Unseelie court. That Queen had wanted to kill Merry as a child, and the Queen's son, Cel, has made numerous recent attempts to kill her. In the first book, Queen Andais finds her and summons her home to tell Merry that she might become the Queen's successor; She has decided to choose either Cel or Merry, depending on which one produces a child first. Merry is the only child born in the last century, the next youngest having been born more than seventy years earlier. The Sidhe, the ruling caste of the faery folk, have never been a fertile people. The Queen hopes that a fertile monarch will create the magic necessary for the other Sidhe to produce children. The Queen assigns some of her guard to Merry. These are among the most noble of the Sidhe men, and their task is to guard her, and to sleep with her to produce the desired child.
Meredith is surprisingly easy to relate to. She is only 32, and grew up outside the faerie courts in the mundane world. She is mortal and uses her magic sparingly. Her goals are fairly mundane, to stay alive, and to protect her friends. Simple goals but not so easy to accomplish. The series follows Meredith on her campaigns to accomplish this. She makes friends and seeks out alliances. Also more faery magic gathers to her. She doesn't go actively seeking more magic -- it just sorts of appears.
This book finds Merry, her guards, and a couple of allies living in L.A. They have just fought a great and terrible magic, the Nameless, and are now prepared to go into more danger. They are going on a visit home. Actually it's three visits, to the dark and dangerous Unseelie court, to the hideous and dangerous goblin court, and to the bright and shining and dangerous Seelie court. Tiranis, Seelie King, is the greatest danger and for some unknown reason is insisting that Merry visit him, even arranging a ball in her honor. Before Merry arrives at the court she negotiates an extension to her alliance with the goblins, during which two of her companions manifest unexpected magic. At the Unseelie court, Merry becomes involved in an assassination attempt and treachery.
Seduced by Moonlight is filled with sex and magic and sex and violence and sex and more sex. The sexual scenes are described with great detail and care. The surprising thing is that though the sex dominates the novel, it isn't gratuitous. Meredith and her guards are trying to achieve a pregnancy. The successful father will marry Merry and eventually be king-consort. Meanwhile they are having a very fine time. A lot of the spontaneous magic occurs during a sexual interlude, and sometimes the spontaneous magic creates a sexual interlude. However, the book indulges in this aspect in such lush and luxurious detail and color as to overwhelm the rest of the story.
This novel compares to an appetizer I had at an expensive restaurant. The appetizer was beautifully presented, wonderful to look at, and amazingly tasty; it was also quite small. Seduced by Moonlight is the same way. The writing is elegant, the story flows from scene to scene, but it isn't at all filling. This novel would make a better short story interlude to the series. Meredith and company were due to make visits to three dangerous courts of faerie: Unseelie, goblin and Seelie. The book would have been more satisfying if it had visited all three courts, not just one.
The series as a whole is fascinating and Laurell K. Hamilton reveals a complicated world with great style and care. One of my favorite aspects is that the magic is not a machine to be controlled but a great mystery. The minor aspects of magic are controlled and used, but this is to the great magics, as a cup of water is to an ocean. Also while I refer to "Merry's guards" in this review, they are not generic interchangeable characters. Each person is named and described and appears as an individual personality with history and problems and changes and grows as the series progresses. The mundane problems, reporters and publicists and housecleaning, contrast with the magical ones of power spillage, glamor and trickery.
Readers of this series will grab this book and enjoy it. This particular novel can not be read alone as the characters and universe and situation are established in the first two books.