Vicious Circle - Linda Robertson
A first novel in the urban fantasy genre, this book is to be followed with Hallowed Circle in December and more later on. What interested me was the incorporation of magic-using Wiccans into political bureaucracy, just as one of the things that initially interested me in the Anita Blake series was the laws over zombie-raising and court testimony. (Yes, I'm a geek.) In Persephone 'Seph' Alcmedi's world, witches, vampires, & waerewolves are all out - but vary in their degree of acceptance by the general public. Vampires have good myths & good PR, so they are glamorous like movie stars. Witches have been required to add some structure to their lives and have groves that oversee various areas so that the authorities can talk to people who have some kind of central authority. Yes, these groves involve elections and politics. Waerewolves are almost completely unaccepted - hospitals won't treat them, cops won't bother to solve their murders, & everyone is scared of their disease & their monthly transformations. Seph is a witch (the term is generally used in the book in preference to anything else, but the tenets of faith seem to be Wicca - Seph spends most of the first third of the book agonising over 'harm none') and a freelance journalist who writes a column explaining waeres to the public and advocating their rights. Johnny, the tattooed singer of a local rock band, & also a waere, is trying to court her, but she finds him too intimidating. (A tattooed industrial musician with cool goth clothes? Can I have one please?)
Seph is basically leading a normal life, trying to avoid Johnny & take care of her aging grandmother who can't be put in a nursing home, when one of Seph's waere friends is murdered. One of the local political witches tells her a vampire did it, & offers her a huge amount of money to avenge the murder by killing him. Seph accepts, then spends the first third of the novel in an attack of conscience. As she gains waere allies, they attempt to persuade her that she is an instrument of justice, in fact the Lustrata, a sort of mythical witch messiah who destroys evil. Seph is also concerned with her friendships that are changing and concerned that the murdered woman's preteen daughter is not being properly taken care of. Meanwhile, the vampires take offence at being stalked and strike back before showing up in person, terribly beautiful and arrogant. Almost everybody turns out to be either more than they seem or different than their first impression.
The novel did slow down a little after the first 4/5, as much of the action is over but a few plot points have to be resolved (or unresolved) in order to lead into the next novel. Occasionally the preteen daughter seems younger or older than she is supposed to be. Johnny does seem to have trouble saying anything that isn't innuendo. But I found these to be small flaws in an enjoyable novel with a fascinating world, rather than anything book-breaking.
Fascinating future complications include the fate/whereabouts of Seph's runaway mother; the identity/whereabouts of her unknown father; the Egyptian connections linking him, Johnny, & Seph's spirit guide; Johnny's unknown past; how the top vampire can use magic; the vampire's complicated-as-hell past & lovelife - & that's about all I can remember at the moment. It was nice to see Greek-Americans in a novel, although I think Persephone might be an anglicized form & Alcmedi looks less Greek to me than things that end in -s like Bilides (my dad's friend's name), but I don't know enough about modern Greek culture to say. I get annoyed and completely thrown out of suspension-of-belief when authors mess up foreign stuff, & I hope the Greek & Egyptian stuff will be accurate.
If you like urban fantasy, check this out; it's better than a lot of them.