by Ilona Andrews, futuristic (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $2.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-574-0
In the future, people are resorting to genetic enhancements to allow them to adapt to the various environmental conditions of other planets and such. However, it isn't long before these genetically-engineered folks or kinsmen realize that they are more "valuable" if they are few in number. As a result, future genetic engineering projects are shut down and the kinsmen form closely competitive families, each with its own cabal of loyal family members determined to do all they can to further their family agenda. It's as if the X-Men have decided to look up to those Godfather movies for their code of conduct.
Imelda "Meli" Geldes, as the family outcast and therefore their convenient person to go to for any dirty job like murders and such, is supposed to be retired after twelve years of getting rid of her family's rivals using her unique abilities. But you know things can be: they never let you retire so easily in such a story like this one. But Celino Carvanna is not just a typical mark. He isn't just ruthless, very dangerous, and bad to know - he has a history with her. And that's when the fun begins.
I hope I didn't give you an impression that this is a La Femme Nikita kind of story, because this story is actually less fast-paced than the synopsis may lead you to believe. Think of this one as a feminist interpretation of a Harlequin Presents story set in the future. Celino is your typical very ruthless tycoon used to getting what he wants, and Meli charms her way into his heart via his stomach by cooking for him the food his mother used to prepare for him. But yet, there is some great playful sexual tension here that subverts the typical Harlequin Presents fantasy - Celino thinks that he's laying his claim on a hot woman that catches his fancy, but it is Meli who is slowly but surely at the same time sinking her hooks into him without him even noticing a thing.
The end result is a very short but definitely complete story that manages to bring to life a brand new world full of exciting possibilities. The characters are amazingly well drawn considering the format constraints and their story ends on a perfect high note. In other words, this may be a short story, but it captures my attention like a very good full-length novel would, leaving me feeling as if I've somehow grown wings and flown. And yes, it feels so good, I'm quite disappointed when I have to put my feet back on solid earth.
I'm not keen on following a continuous series, which is why I have given Ilona Andrews' Magic books a miss despite the rave reviews I have heard about them. I felt that I don't have the time, so please don't hate me people. But having read this fabulous story, I'm starting to wonder what I have been missing out on. How about another short story set in this world? I need to read more.
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