Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman

My dad saw me buy this book and said something like "Staying Dead? I thought the problem is staying alive?". And laughed to himself. Anyway.. Imagine me rolling my eyes.

Here's another new to me author, though I think I've read books that Laura Anne Gilman edited. It's an urban fantasy set in New York City, and I believe its the first in a series, but there is actually a short story that comes before this one. I think the sequence is:

1) Staying Dead

2) Curse the Dark

3) Bring it On

4) Burning Bridges

5) Free Fall (2008)

This is a series of adventures about Wren and her partner Sergei. Wren is a Talent (aka someone who can manipulate energy) and a thief who does jobs retrieving objects for people. Sergei is an art-dealer who takes care of the business side of Wren's job. The clients contact Sergei, Wren uses her Talent and they both work together to track down the object. I believe that there is some background missing from this book but enough hints about it throughout for you to pick up that Sergei and Wren met 10 years ago when Sergei was fleeing from a mage, got into a car accident, and Wren saved him. After that adventure they decided to go into business together, and Sergei feels like part of his job is to protect Wren although she's the one with the special powers. There is also some backstory on Sergei's past (like why he was being hunted by a mage) that isn't revealed until midbook as well.

The book starts with Wren beginning a job. The client is missing the cornerstone of their building and Wren has been tasked to find it. The book goes straight into the story as if the reader has had some background from some prequel story. While I liked being considered smart enough to figure it out, and I did figure it out, I still wish that I knew their backstory earlier on in the book. I'm afraid that not knowing for as long as I was made the book boring at first. I thought the first couple of pages started off promising but then not really being filled in after that started to grate on me.  It was after I picked the book up again and kept reading and got about 150 pages in that the book finally picked up. By then I understood who I was reading about.

The world was interesting – we have people of Talent like Wren, the Nulls who have none, and the fatae (sort of fae people, like men with stag horns, angels, and demons that look like the Yeti). There is also different groups – the Council which governs most magic users, lonejacks (those that have left the Council's rule), hategroups that target the fatae and Talent, and a secret society called the Silence. On top of that there is this job that Wren has – more difficult than she originally expected, with more people involved than she originally realized. But to me the most interesting part of the book was Wren and Sergei. It reminds me of Moonlighting, Remington Steele and The X-Files. Two people partnered together who you know are both secretly in love with the other but who deny it to themselves the whole time. Sergei and Wren are so comfortable together. They can sleep in the same bed or undress in front of the other. And they are so used to their routines – they eat the same meals at the same restaurant at the same table, and they both know to brew tea for each other before the other asks. Yet Wren hides her crush and Sergei is overprotective. I don't think I've read a book with a partnership so in tune and comfortable with each other (yet blind) in a really long time. In the end that was probably the best part of the book. Overall it ended up feeling OK – I wasn't on my seat, but I liked the characters and I'm still interested to see where it goes.

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2 thoughts on “Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman

  1. First – haha at your dad. I'm amused. Second – the book sounds intruiging. I like the relationship aspect of it. But I'm not a huge fan of books involving fae. So … I'll probably pass. Also, I loved Remington Steele!

  2. It didn't blow out of the water, but it was interesting none-the-less. It will probably be a while before I go look for the second book. Yes, Remington Steele! It was better than Moonlighting in my opinion.

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