The Courier
by Melanie Jackson, fantasy (2004)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52576-3


I must confess that I am quite disappointed with the direction that Melanie Jackson's Wildside series is taking. Traveler leads me to believe that this series will be more in vein of a dark fantasy action adventure series, but The Courier suggests more strongly than ever that Ms Jackson chooses to head in that tongue-in-cheek fantasy route. Then again, I could have gotten the big hint from the silly Amazon reviews by "goblins".

I don't begrudge Ms Jackson for doing what she chooses to do with her series as it's her series after all but I can't help feeling quite disappointed nonetheless. I'm hoping for something kickass that doesn't go overboard with the tongue-in-cheek humor to bridge the current dry spell of good genre kickass stories on TV and in the romance genre.

This time around, the lutin are causing problems in New Orleans after they have failed in Detroit and Las Vegas. Half-slyph Lyris Damsel heads straight into the Big Easy underdark to determine whether the horrifying rumors are true: the lutin king Quede is not just a lutin but also a vampire. She, being an investigative journalist, is also convinced that Quede is the mastermind behind the assassination of a certain US President named John F Kennedy. She encounters an unlikely ally in New Orleans' leading "exotic dancer" Romeo Hart. Romeo is actually Roman Hautecoeur (I know, it's not much better than Romeo Hart), charged by Jack Frost to assist Lyris in her mission.

Lyris is a familiar romance heroine: she is trying to repress her fae half (the passionate side of her) after seeing her mother get burned by her fickle relationships and Romeo, being the hurly-burly weenie king of fun, is not for her, oh no. But like the other Wildside heroines, she gets a lot of props from me for being a kickass heroine when the situation requires her to be. Romeo is a decent character too, although I wish that he isn't so predictable as a hero of a romance set in New Orleans.

Lacking the lush and taut atmosphere of the genuinely creepy Traveler, The Courier is slightly better than the previous book Outsiders but at the same time, with a plot that feels like a mere variation of that of Traveler only with less interesting characters, I don't really see why I should recommend this book when Traveler is a much better book by comparison. What The Courier has, Traveler has better and more. The Courier becomes really become very, very good towards the end, especially when Lyris literally embraces her slyph nature and... well, does what she has to do, but by then, the book is close to ending. This problem is also present in the previous book, by the way: the party doesn't really start until it's nearly time to pack up and move on.

It is probably not fair of me to compare every subsequent book in the Wildside series with Traveler, but I blame it as much on the author as on myself: she has unfortunately started a series with a very good book and every subsequent book seems to be more irreverently tongue-in-cheek yet more loosely-written and unevenly paced in comparison. It's only human, I guess, for me to be disappointed with The Courier.

Rating: 79


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