Seduced by Moonlight
(Ballantine, $23.95, 384 pages, hardback; February 3 2004.)
Laurell K. Hamilton first gained fame as the author of the Anita
Blake, Vampire-Hunter series, the first few of which were tightly
plotted fantasy/mysteries, seething with repressed sexuality, highly
charged and erotic. Her last few books in the Anita Blake series,
and all three to date in the Merry Gentry series, are pornography.
This is an observation, not a criticism. I have nothing against pornography.
I do wonder, however, if all this was deliberate. Did Laurell Hamilton
consciously decide to build an audience before she could be pigeonholed
as merely a purveyor of erotica? Is she only now writing what she had
wanted to write all along?
No matter, a purveyor of erotica she is, and a good one, too. Seduced
by Moonlight is the third book in the adventures of Merry Gentry,
the only native-born-American Elven Princess. The heroine has fled the
home of Faerie, which lies somewhere in the vicinity of St Louis, Missouri,
in order to escape an unending series of assassination attempts by the
followers of Merry's very unloving cousin, Prince Cel, who is the only
child of the Queen of Air and Darkness.
Faerie is dying. The Sidhe have few children, and their magic has faded
over the years. Through a combination of luck and pluck, Merry has rubbed
her Aunt's face in the facts of her son's iniquity. Queen Andais has
decreed that whoever first begets a child, Merry or Prince Cel, will
inherit the throne of the Unseelie Court. Since Prince Cel is in prison,
Merry would seem to have the inside track, but, despite constant and
imaginative sex with a horde of guardian lovers, she is not yet pregnant.
As Seduced by Moonlight opens, Merry and her men are temporarily
living on the estate of Maeve Reed, a Sidhe exiled from Faerie because
of her dangerous knowledge regarding Merry's uncle, Taranis, the King
of the Seelie Court. Merry has a dream of power; when she awakens, an
ancient chalice that had been thought lost from Faerie is lying next
to her in bed. Merry proceeds to have sex with a number of people, one
of them Maeve Reed, all of whom regain godlike powers they had lost
many ages ago, or gain godlike powers they never had before. Merry,
as if we had ever doubted it, is special.
The action of Seduced by Moonlight takes place over a very few
days, and the overall arc of the series advances little. Merry has been
invited first to a feast in her honour at the Unseelie Court, and then
to a similar event at the Seelie Court. The current book ends at the
Unseelie Court, with many volumes presumably, to follow.
Seduced by Moonlight certainly has its weak points. For one
thing, the Sidhe, both the Seelie and Unseelie, are depicted as beautiful,
powerful, racist, violent and untrustworthy. Their problems are, to
a large extent, of their own making, and it is difficult to feel much
sympathy for their society as a whole. Europe exiled the Sidhe generations
before, tired of the internecine warfare they caused, and President
Thomas Jefferson had offered them sanctuary in America. One cannot help
but feel that Jefferson made a mistake.
Merry, alone among the Sidhe, is "mortal". At one point, a Sidhe noble
protests against Merry's possible ascension to the throne, since a mortal
Sidhe would, presumably, hasten the demise of their magic. It is stated
that all the Sidhe with whom Merry has "shared blood" have become mortal.
Doubt is cast upon this point, but it is not refuted. Merry and her
accuser fight a duel, in the course of which they share blood. The accuser
does not become mortal, and Queen Andais offers this not as proof that
Merry's mortality will not contaminate the Sidhe's powers but rather
as proof that Merry is now immortal. Merry wonders if this is so. How
does it feel to be immortal? Would she know? Well, I certainly don't.
How did she know she was mortal in the first place, if she can't tell
the difference now?
Do not think from the above that I do not like Seduced by Moonlight.
I like it just fine. Laurell K. Hamilton's books move along at a breakneck
pace, even when they don't go anywhere. It's one thing after another
and the reader is taken for a wild ride. Merry is an attractive, sympathetic
and very sexy heroine. The dialogue is hip and snappy, the characterizations
well done. The overall dilemma is compelling. Laurell Hamilton has gotten
into a nasty habit of having her heroines escape from (and usually kill)
the bad guys by suddenly developing a brand new power just in the nick
of time. This book, thankfully, does not succumb to such an obvious
device. Seduced by Moonlight is a creampuff. It's light and delicious
and mostly air. It's certainly not "high art", but it's never boring
and the reader looking for escapist fiction of the more outrageous variety,
and who chooses to overlook its obvious flaws, will find it, I think,
quite filling enough.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: