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Seduced by Moonlight

by Laurell K Hamilton

(Ballantine, $23.95, 384 pages, hardback; February 3 2004.)

Review by Robert I Katz

Laurell K. Hamilton first gained fame as the author of the Anita Blake, Vampire-Hunter series, the first few of which were tightly cover scan 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.

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