Killing Me Slowly

A leopardess who learned how to dance. And read.
Frost Moon - Anthony Francis Man, this was one of those books that threw me for a total loop - fifty or so pages into it, I was so thoroughly put off by this book that I wanted to quit. In fact, I did quit for a little while there to read Holly Black's much better White Cat, but that's a rant for another time.

Anyway, by the time I dragged myself back to Frost Moon and gave it another ten or so pages to redeem itself, a subplot that was actually interesting wandered through the heroine's door, and I thought to myself, "Yeah, I can stick around for this." It was at that point I found myself willingly reading Frost Moon rather than hauling my brain through it at gun point. Perhaps un-coincidently, this was also around the time that our author decided he'd spent enough time proving his characters to be suitably "alternative" and "edgy", and began to focus on shit that was actually relevant to the plot.

But let's go back a few ticks there, because while there did eventually come a point at which I enjoyed reading Frost Moon, it took quite a while to get there, and there was some seriously deterrent shit along the way. Frost Moon is the tale of Dakota, a magical tattoo artist who lives in a world where vampires, shapeshifters, and witches are out and proud to the public. They form the "Edgeworld", a sort of supernatural alternative culture of which Dakota is - somewhat - a member. At the start of the book, Dakota is recruited by her father's former (police) partner to consult on a murder involving magical tattoos. Which is where the trouble begins.

Within the first oh, I don't know, two chapters or so, Francis does two things - several times - that irritate the shit out of me. He objectifies his heroine, and he has her objectify every good-looking individual she meets. It's a consistent, constant thing in the first quarter or so of the book that some guy is appreciating Dakota's tits or leering at some other part of her body, or hitting on her, or just, y'know, suggesting she get a job as a stripper. At one point her vampire ex puts a collar on her and demands she masturbate in front of her. Creepy. And if that's not happening, then Dakota is making sexual innuendos or thinking every other guy she meets a sexy beast or calling some chick's tits lickable or appreciating a shapeshifter whose head is literally that of a deer, or licking random girls' faces.

It's hard to explain exactly why this bothered me (well, not that deer thing, that's just weird) - it's not like I'm the puritanical type, swooning and crying (in a southern accent) "Oh my stars, this book has sex and this woman has a libido and tattoos, she's a filthy harlot who must be locked away!" but Christ, for a while there it was like being stuck inside Kim Cattral's or Captain John Hart's head.

Then the party really starts, as we're quickly introduced to our cast, which includes a beastly, homeless werewolf, a Gothic Lolita computer hacker, a seedy vampire gang, an illiterate teenaged catgirl, an FBI investigator/Man in Black, and a Christian lesbian bondage-enthusiast vampire Queen, I shit you not (and I'm not gonna lie, that scene, with the ball gags and the mouthless leather masks and the human dogs, seriously creeped me out).

What it comes down to is that it feels like Francis is trying way too hard to prove that his world is very pointedly other. And it's difficult to criticize, because I understand why; this book was written for the people that it's about - for the members of the subcultures that get demonized or stereotyped or just plain excluded from other urban fantasy series. Once we actually get in to the book, Francis actually does a decent job of portraying the various "abnormal" sub-culture representatives as people - totally non-scary, normal, relatively down-to-earth people. Hell, the eventual villain of the story is probably the most upstanding, so-called "respectable" character in the book.

My problem is that the characterization - especially of Dakota - for the first few chapters of the books go so far in the "other" direction that it makes getting to the good stuff that much more difficult. I didn't initially enjoy being in Dakota's head, so I didn't want to continue. It's obviously a very subjective issue, but it's also a big factor in determining whether or not you'll enjoy Frost Moon.

Story-wise...Frost Moon is a mess. The plot is all over the place, and there are like fifty million things distracting Dakota from the cover conflict at any given time...

Read more at You're Killing.Us.

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