Urban Fantasy Review: ‘Red Delicious’ by Kathleen Tierney

Red Delicious (Siobhan Quinn, #2)True story.  My dad asked me what I was reading and I tried to describe this book.  I said it was less of a parody and more of a parody of parodies; an entirely self aware narration that attempts to strip down everything about Urban Fantasy and built it back up so it looked exactly the same while being completely different.  He looked at me and let me know that he has a Masters and still doesn’t know what the hell I am talking about.

Why did I come up with a stuttering, quasi-intellectual line of bull shit when discussing what this book was about?

Because there was no way I was going to that man who raised me that I was reading about a vampire junkie chasing after a dildo made from unicorn horn while trying to stay ahead of two demon brothel owners.

Give Tierney (pen name for Caitlin R. Kiernan) one thing, never have I see such a unique quest item.  Hell if this series ever gets picked up by a major studio and becomes a move they won’t have to change a single plot point when writing the inevitable porn parody that follows. The potential for a goldmine here is staggering.

Siobhan Quinn is still the most unreliable narrator in the history of fiction.  She tells you she is lying, then lies to you, then lets you know that that could have been a lie as well.  We met her in Blood Oranges where she had something of a Flashman vibe; seemingly the hero of the story yet vile in most ways and living on luck almost entirely.  Or, not exactly living, being part vampire, but the point remains.  I loved the unique style, the plot was serviceable, and the humor was absolutely top notch.

But this is definitely a series best taken in small doses.  Little things that bugged in the first book itch even more while reading Red Delicious.  Some of this is no doubt by design, I know going in that Quinn is entirely too self-aware of the fact that she lives in an Urban Fantasy.  But she not only breaks the forth wall but tells us she is going to; and at some point this is less novel and more cartoon.  Perhaps she could jump off a building but not fall until she looks down in the next book?  Still, less of a complaint than an observation, it is more of the same from the first book after all.

Red Delicious has some strengths compared to the first outing though.  While I enjoy Flashman (and the Warhammer equivalent Ciaphas Cain) I was glad to see Quinn gain a lot more agency this time around.  She gained so much in her undead transformation it would have irked had she not figured out ways to make it work in her favor.  She plots against those who seek to use her, takes petty revenge when she knows she can, and defeats the other guys (bad guys is a stretch when taken in comparison to herself) using her head and abilities.  All in a much better plotted book than the first round.

So I look upon Red Delicious as something of a mixed bag.  What bugged me was what drew me to the first book; perhaps a larger delay between readings would have worked in my favor.  But I would assume that most who enjoyed this little monster’s story the first time around will find just as much to enjoy here, wrapped in a more coherent plot.

3 Stars

Fantasy Review: ‘Blood Oranges’ by Kathleen Tierney

Blood Oranges (Siobhan Quinn, #1)Well it is no wonder I keep getting this series recommended to me.  The first person narration is as haphazard, unreliable, and just plain crazy as one of my reviews.  Did I in fact write Blood Oranges?  I don’t remember doing so, and if so my writing quality has gone up by quite a bit, but damn that is a familiar writing style.

Siobhan Quinn is a hunter of the supernatural and a damn good one.  But when a nasty werewolf leaves her infected and almost dead she is saved from the most unlikely of sources, an ancient vampire stuck in a child’s body, who decides to pass her own little gift on to Quinn as well.  Now Quinn is twice cursed, and by the way, all of her exploits are possible a bit of an untruth as well.  That line about being a damn good hunter?  Perhaps a bit of a stretch.  In fact she is a junkie that hasn’t died yet due to pure luck and by being a bit useful to the right people. 

At first glance I took this to be a parody of the urban fantasy genre but I don’t think that was the point.  If anything it felt more like a parody of other parodies that don’t realize how transperent they are. Quinn is all too aware of the UF tropes and laughingly points them out throughout.  Sparkly vampires (honestly someday I am reading Twilight just to understand this reference) is just one fallacy about the supernatural she points out.  Want a quick history of vampire mythos?  She has it on hand and can set you strait on which are real and which may be a stretch.  But don’t take her word for it.  Seriously, have I mentioned she is a bit untrustworthy?

The real story here is whatever Quinn wishes it to be at the moment.  She admits almost immediately that she has already lied to the reader and warns that she will most likely do it again in the future.  She goes off on tangents at a whim, sometimes a few lines and other times it can overtake the entire chapter.  She forgets where she is, backtracks, and then hopes like hell the reader is still following. Throughout though she is dark yet funny and a complete blast to read; if I didn’t always believe a street junkie runaway could be so well read, no matter how much time she spent hanging out in a library, her quick and dirty history lessons were always a highlight.

Her story itself, or at least what can be believed, is enjoyable and tightly written.  A classic survive the set up and track down those responsible type thing.  She runs into other vamps and wolfs, gets riddles from trolls, gets pranked by dirty seagull (my favorite scene in the whole book, damn did I laugh), and puts all the pieces together the wrong way.  The ending is either completely genius or a huge cop out; I am still trying to decide.  Needless to say it fits both the character and goes against the grain of urban fantasy, so I am leaning on pretty damn smart.

Another book in which your mileage may vary.  No doubt its entertaining anti-hero, dark storyline, and consistent humor should appeal to many.  But I have seen unconventional writing styles turn people off before, and this one is completely unique.  Quinn was at times a little too aware she was living in a fantasy book, but for the most part it worked.  A junkie with a new habit, a bone to pick, and an unknown amount of luck left.  What’s not to like?

4 Stars