"Don’t Kill the Messenger," Eileen Rendahl

Pros: Fun plots and characters; plenty of action, humor, and good chemistry
Cons: A few background details on Messengers and Melina that don’t make sense to me; overused snarky first-person female p.o.v.
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

Melina is a Messenger, a go-between in the supernatural world. She has just enough amped-up healing, reflexes, and strength to help her navigate between werewolves, vampires, pixies, imps, gnomes, witches, and deities without getting killed (hopefully). When ninjas steal a package she’s delivering to a vampire, she’d much rather try to get it back than face the other vampire who sent her. Her search leads her to a Taoist temple, where priests are forced to control the kiang shi, Chinese vampires found beneath the temple. The creatures are killing violent gang members, but innocents get caught in the middle—and no one but Melina seems to want to make it their business.

Meanwhile, Officer Ted Goodnight is determined to figure out what’s going on as well, and every clue leads him back to (or has him running into) Melina. Melina’s falling for his sweet nature, but how can she build a relationship with a normal person when she can’t tell him about all the weird and wild things going on?


 

I never have enough time to read every review book I get. When I received a copy of Eileen Rendah’s Dead on Delivery, I had a vague memory of putting the previous book, Don’t Kill The Messenger, in a “read this soon, no really,” pile. It was time to dig it out so I’d know what was going on when I got to the second book.

The current fad of using a snarky, chatty, female internal monologue to narrate urban fantasy stories is getting a little overdone. It’s a great method, don’t get me wrong, but it makes some of these books sound too similar, and sometimes makes Melina more annoying than she should be. (To be fair to Ms. Rendahl, however, I am reading a book that came out early last year, before some of those other books.) I found Melina and Ted’s characterizations a little rough; hopefully they’ll smooth up in later novels. Finally, the concept of Messengers didn’t fully work for me and felt inconsistent. The deal is that some people come back changed after a near-death experience. They find they can see and hear all sorts of weird stuff that wasn’t there before, and supernatural beings come knocking looking for help delivering packages. If the Messenger doesn’t do the delivery, “bad stuff” starts happening to her. However, I still don’t get how a Messenger is supposed to figure out that’s her role, or how anyone could know even that much of the rules (or how there could be such rules) without a more structured thing in place than just gee, a Messenger is created whenever there’s need for one. On the scale of cosmic need, someone to deliver packages doesn’t seem like something that would warrant that kind of attention. Not to mention the fact that Melina’s mentor, Mae, who used to be a Messenger, strongly hints that Melina has more self-determination than we’re led to believe, but never actually explains how that’s the case.

Anyway, the book is interesting enough and fun enough that the above turned into a minor irritation rather than a huge issue. Some of the characters are particularly fun, such as vampire ER doc Alex (my favorite text in the book describes how and why Alex gets away with that) and a werewolf bartender named Paul. Rendahl manages to make both a vampire and a werewolf sexy as guys rather than relying on a stereotype and mystical vibes or forcing the women involved to be submissive. The book feels like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a slightly older main character, and a World of Darkness RPG campaign (come to think of it, if your players aren’t likely to read this book, you could probably turn it into a great storyline). I quite like the blend, although it does mean some things will feel a bit familiar if you’re acquainted with both of those milieus.

There’s some great character chemistry, fun sex, sizzling kisses, entertaining meet-ups with various supernatural creatures (including a riotous Kokopelli!), and enjoyable action. For how much I enjoyed those elements I want to give the book a 4 out of 5, but the Messenger background issues knocked it down a bit to 3.5.

 

Edited later to add: after thinking a bit more about some of the times in which characters were way more stupid than they should have been, I’m going to downgrade this to a 3. If you can easily get past inconsistencies and character foolishness, there’s an awful lot to enjoy here. But if you’re sensitive to those things, they’ll drive you a bit nuts.

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