by LL Foster, fantasy (2007)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21874-7
The Awakening is the first book in LL Foster's series Servant. LL Foster is not a new author as this is a pseudonym for Lori Foster. Fans of hers who are expecting something similar to her more down-to-earth contemporary romances are in for a surprise though since there is only the beginning of a romance - an unorthodox one, yes, but unmistakably one nonetheless - by the end of the book. When I say this book is part of a series, trust me, it really is part of a series.
Come to think of it, the story here doesn't fit the current "urban fantasy" formula too well because this one is more like an episode of The X-Files. In the opening pages of this book alone, the reader will learn that a mad scientist type of villain is conducting inhuman experiments, which leads to grisly events like cancer-stricken zombie-like creatures roaming the night. Our heroine, Gabrielle Cody, is a demon slayer. She can see auras of people to discover any demons who from all outward appearances look like humans and every night she's on the roll. By day, she is the creator of the cult favorite comic Servant, although only she knows that the stories between the pages are actually autobiographical. At any rate, a recent encounter between Gaby and a cancer-stricken creature has her embarking on her own The X-Files adventure while a cop, Detective Luther Cross, tags along trying to make sense of what is going on in this story.
Luther is pretty much a one-dimensional entity here, perhaps he will be better fleshed out when he plays a bigger role in Gaby's life in future books. However, I should point out that Gaby is a very difficult heroine to follow as she is... a walking bag of PMS or something. I think the author has taken the heroine's antagonistic lone wolf persona a little too far because Gaby in this story is always sneering, snarling, scowling, and seething when she is not using four-letter words on everybody she encounters in this story. I understand that it is not easy doing what she does and it must be a tough and lonely job, but Gaby comes off like a one-dimensional barely Cro-Magnon creature here.
The author later tries to show how Gaby is affected slowly by the friendly overtures she receives from some secondary characters in this story, but my problem with Gaby is not that she's rude and stand-offish, my problem is with the fact that she is boring and tedious while being rude and stand-offish. There is hardly any depth to the heroine apart from her one-dimensional uber-bitchy mode.
Speaking of depth, the story is also perplexingly devoid of any meaty details in the canon that I can sink my teeth into. Maybe the author is planning to reveal more in future books about Gaby's past or this shadowy evil she is hunting day after day, but this book alone has very little actual canon. That's why I find myself comparing this story to an episode of The X-Files. The storyline about the mad scientist kind of villain is reasonably closed by the end of this book, but I have no clear picture of who the main characters especially Gaby are.
One thing I really enjoy about this story is how genuinely scary it is. The Awakening has its share of gory scenes that are not for the faint-hearted. Ms Foster has a knack for creepy scenes, it's therefore a pity that so much of this book feels so forgettable at the end of the day.
I don't mind the fact that The Awakening is so unrelentingly dark and the heroine is ridiculously vulgar and rude. However, this story is more like a light dessert than a hearty meal. It doesn't have much depth or substance and at the same time, the author fails to include any hooks in this story to give me a "I must buy the next book... now!" feeling, what with the heroine aiming to be a case of walking Tourette's syndrome and the canon being so vague in this story. I'd say this is more of The Slumbering than The Awakening.
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