Still Life
by Melanie Jackson, dark fantasy (2004)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52608-5


Pacing can be an author's best weapon or greatest weakness. For the last few books in Melanie Jackson's Wildside series, the author seems have to have lost her sense of pacing altogether. In Still Life, she has improved on the weak storylines of her previous few books but egad, the pacing is still out of whack. For a long time, nothing can happen but interminable eye-shagging and then in the last few chapters, everything seems to happen at once, leaving me wondering whether I should grab hold of something before I get washed out of the room by the tidal wave of rushed scenes.

The author's mythology seems to be moving forward. Now it seems that the dark fae have a secret pact with the goblins to cause more havoc in this world. (By the way, if you're new to this, do check out the background information on this series in the review of the first book in the series, Traveler.) Our heroine Nyssa Laszlo starts off unable to remember a lot about her past in this story. Who is she? When she realizes that she has an ability to do astral projection thingies ("dreamwalk"), it's probably fair to wonder: what is she? She'll get back to you... she hopes. In the meantime, she becomes a talented musician by using her dreamwalk ability to travel back in time to learn how to play from musical greats in the past (how boring but that's a romance heroine for you). The thing is, her life is now in danger and she doesn't know why.

Enter Abrial, the assassin for the Seelie court (the Seelie are the good fae while the Unseelie are the dark fae and no, they don't shag everything that moves ala a certain author's merry-giddy-shagwell fae series). Jack Frost, a familiar character to readers who have followed the author's series, asks Abrial to keep an eye out on Nyssa. The reason as to why Nyssa is so important will be revealed in due time so I'll not say anything more here. Abrial is unable to feel emotions (which makes him a very good killer) but as he and Nyssa start spending more time together, he starts to feel funny inside. Maybe it's love. Who knows?

For too long in this book I'm bombarded with dreamwalk/dreamtalk mumbo jumbo that, frankly, is starting to wear thin as it's such an overused plot device in paranormal romances. Can I be granted permission to drop by the houses of every paranormal romance author out there and somehow disable the italic font function in their working computers? Much has been made about Abrial not being able to feel, blah blah blah, but his love story with Nyssa isn't that rocky or long a road to the happy ending. The whole set-up leads to an anticlimatic payoff. The fast-paced action scenes towards the end are pretty good but they are so rushed and so many things seem to happen at one time that I am left disoriented rather than satisfied.

When Still Life needs to speed things up, it doesn't. Yet, its slow scenes fail to make her characters come to life even more or shed any vital details about her plot that can keep me interested in the story. In short, the story doesn't move much for too long. When the story finally speeds up, it speeds up so fast and details seem to come straight out of the blue that it's as if I've been catapulted straight into a brick wall, right in the center of the U where someone has sprayed "Deux You, Machina" on it. If Ms Jackson wants to keep the momentum going with her series, she ought to work a little harder on the pacing. Seriously, before I start to go senile and wonder aloud just who it is that really wrote the well-paced Traveler.

Rating: 75


My Favorite Pages

This book at Amazon.com

This book at Amazon UK

Search for more reviews of works by this author:

My Guestbook Return to Romance Novel Central Email