Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cat's Claw - Amber Benson


Cat’s Claw
A Calliope-Reaper Jones Novel
Amber Benson
Ace

Fantasy

Call me a Grammar Snob if you will, but I finished this book two days ago, and I’m still giggling over the apparently non-ironic appearance of the phrase “without further adieu” in this book. It really has nothing to do with the story, but I cannot stop hearing that exact phrase as uttered by Zap Brannigan from “Futurama.” I’ll do my best to get over it.

This is the second novel in the series, following DEATH’S DAUGHTER, and I’m very happy to say that main character and first-person narrator Calliope has vastly improved over the first outing. That time, I found her to be wildly immature, foolish, and possessed of an ability to break down and cry in every chapter that would put your average daytime drama diva to shame. This time, she keeps the waterworks under control. She still has a tendency to react like a spoiled child and take exactly the wrong actions, but I liked her much better, anyway.

After her sojourn through Hell to save her dad (big-D Death,) Callie is trying to balance her supernatural (and immortal) background with her present life as a single girl trying to make it in New York City. For new readers, she pretty much admits right up front that she’s a whiner, so just accept that and go with it. It’ll be worth it. During her previous adventures – which make for fun reading, but are not necessary to enjoying this installment – Callie ended up owing Cerberus a favor. She also ended up taking one of Cerberus’ puppies home with her. When the Big Dog calls in the favor, it’s obvious that the consequences will involve returning the puppy, who has become a cherished addition to Callie’s family, and a particular favorite of Clio, Callie’s younger sister.

The problem is that there’s a soul missing. Death keeps pretty good records and knows where all the souls are, whether on earth, in Hell, or being processed for some kind of reassignment. But one of them slipped through the cracks, and Cerberus wants Callie to find out what happened. Naturally, there are a few problems. Like, he hasn’t been spotted since ancient Egypt; and, to get a look at his Death Record is going to take some serious juice. Good thing Callie knows people in high places. If Callie fails in her quest, not only does the puppy go back to Cerberus, but Callie becomes the new guardian of that gate. And she has exactly twenty-four hours to accomplish her task. With a little help from friends and family, Callie quickly ends up… completely over her head and deep in a situation she had no idea even existed. So, business as usual.

Callie still whines and complains a lot more than is becoming in a fantasy heroine, but she’s shown so much growth from the first book to this one that I’m willing to overlook it. It’s looking possible that she might actually grow up fairly soon. If she could just stop overusing italics, it would be lovely. As a reader, I so do not need her guidance in every paragraph to tell me which words need emphasis, thanks.

Readers of the first book will be happy to know that we get to see a bit more of Clio, Runt (the puppy), and of Jarvis, Death’s very amusing and competent Executive Assistant. The plot this time seems a lot more straightforward, and not too complex. This is balanced by some interesting sidetracking into Callie’s past, making me think there’s much more to come.

Rating: 7
March 2010
ISBN# 978-0-441-01843-7 (paperback)

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