As Lie The Dead
Reviewed by Alana Joli Abbott
[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:3 (#344) in March 2011.]
Moments after the conclusion of Three Days to Dead, Evy Stone is ready for a long nap, a vacation, and generally permission not to be involved in any high-stakes, life-changing events. She’s still getting used to her new body and the Gifts that came with it — after having been murdered by goblins, she was resurrected into the body of Chalice Frost, and when the spell reached its completion, she found that not only is she sharing Chalice’s body, but many of her emotional memories as well. Really, Evy is hoping for a little time to figure out herself, and maybe figure out her new relationship with Wyatt Truman, the man who brought her back to life, and who loves her, but for whom she hadn’t had any romantic feelings in her old body. It’s hard for Evy to get close to anyone after a childhood of continually being abandoned and a life of violence trying to keep humanity safe from things that go bump in the night. A few days off is just the start of what Evy needs to get her head around where she goes from here.
But since a vacation wouldn’t be a very good way to start a new novel, Evy hardly gets an hour off before she’s smack dab in the middle of another time limit: find the person behind the brutal murders of all of the city’s Owlkin (bird shape shifters), or her friend and ally Rufus St. James will be handed over to the council of shape shifters to be executed. It’s an impossible task, and one that involves having to betray the Triads, the organization that gave Evy a goal in life before they betrayed her and tried to hunt her down. But more than that, Evy has a lot to learn about what it means to side with the people she’s always referred to as “Dregs” — the magical creatures that the Triads teach are nothing but a threat to humanity. There’s a whole world of complexity beneath the simple assumptions she was taught, and Evy doesn’t have a lot of time to unravel how she fits into this brave new world, find the greater threat, and save the life of her friend.
Most second novels don’t begin quite so immediately after the heroine’s first adventure, but it’s important to the story that Evy is on a limited time budget. It’s not just that the time constraints give the novels a 24-like feel, though that may be part of it. Evy gets no breaks because so much of the story is what’s happening in Evy’s head. While the plot revolves around Evy’s quest to clear the name of her friend — and, as her investigation progresses, stop a Dreg coalition, run by a human, from starting a war with the Triads and slaughtering hundreds of innocent humans — that’s almost the background against which Evy’s real drama is set. Dying and being reborn would have been enough for emotional trauma on its own. Dying and being reborn in a body that doesn’t have muscle memory for the life you had before, that is attracted to different men, and that prompts memories and emotions based on smells and sights the old consciousness experienced — that means a complete shift in self-awareness. Evy is both the person she was, and the new person she’s become. The change scares her and makes her feel vulnerable, emotions she’s prone to fight just as much as she’d like to fight the Dregs. But the changes also bring new awareness and understanding, giving her the possibility of a life that has meaning rather than purpose, that has real friendships rather than just alliances and team bonding. The core of Evy’s story is coming into that understanding, and being willing to stop clinging to her desire not to change.
All, of course, while living the action heroine life fitting of an urban fantasy star.