Skin Deep (Laura Blackstone, Book 1)
by Mark Del Franco
Cover Artist: Chris Cocozza
Review by Harriet Klausner
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441017430
Date: 28 July 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When the Convergence occurred in the mid-twentieth century Faerie moved in to earth and even now humans fear what the Fae can do. Great Britain and the United States recognized Tara in Ireland as a sovereign nation with Queen Maeve as the ruler. The Celtic Danann has established the Guild to deal with human-Fae disputes and to police Fae or human-Fae related crimes on the local level. Intersec investigates crimes on an international level.
Laura Blackstone is the public relations director for the Fey Guild; Mariel Tate is InterSec's best field agent; and Janice Crawford is the backup druidess for the DC SWAT Squad. The three women are all actually Laura who uses glamour magic to change her appearance. Currently, she is working a drug bust that has gone badly. Two brownies are supposed to be guarding the meth house, but one of them is a deadly Inverni fairy with powers to match Laura. A fight ensues and the fairy escapes, but before Sanchez dies he tells her something. She is knocked out, but when she awakens she has forgotten what Sanchez told her. The Inverni, Alfrey is a radical who wants his kind to fight the Dannens for control of their species.
Laura is preparing an exhibition at the American Archives for Fae and Human even though she thinks one of her kind tried to kill Sanchez and her. She assumes they, whoever they are, believe Sanchez told her something that make them need to kill her. There is trouble brewing for the Fae and Laura thinks the archives are the key, but has no proof to back her contention. Only time will tell.
Mark Del Franco leaves his Conner Grey world to begin the Laura Blackstone saga with a terrific opening act that introduces the players and much more in an urban fantasy realm. This is an earth in which humans and Fae live and coexist in an uneasy peace though the newcomers have altered their appearance to keep from frightening the earthlings. The audience sees the Celtic Fae whose culture and belief system are filled with alliances and intrigue.
The heroine is a serious person, but her differing personas provide comic relief as she struggles to stay in character as each identity acts differently, but she has also confused them. She can be a bit frazzled when two or three of her identities are to appear at the same time (sort of like Clark Kent and Superman). The audience will admire her grit while also feeling a bit sorry for Laura who has no life it seems beyond balancing her three jobs. Even her three apartments are no more than temporary shelters as the nearest thing to a home to this workaholic is the Guild Hall.
Each of the personas tries to find out what trouble is brewing from rough elements of the Fae; she also knows she is in danger regardless of which person she is at that moment. The Fae are also a mixed bunch ranging from brownie, fairies, giants and boggarts, oh my; each enhances the belief that the Convergence occurred. Instead of the magic that readers expect of the Fae, Mr. Del Franco has them apply their essence drawn from the earth around them to do things which humans call magic. Laura and her people have no earthly idea why humans are afraid of their essence since she has no control over it and canít simply erase it to defy the laws of physics. Mr. Del Franco has opened up with a super character driven urban fantasy that will spellbind readers due to the heroineís essence drawing them to her.