The Wild Road
by Marjorie M Liu, fantasy (2008)
Leisure, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-8439-5939-0


I would strongly suggest that you read the short story A Dream Of Stone And Shadows from the collection called Dark Shadows before you read The Wild Road. The key to understanding the hero's psychological profile is tied strongly to events that happened in that story, events that are mentioned cursorily in this book. Because I have not read that story at the time I read this book, I find it pretty frustrating to try to put the pieces together to understand the hero and some of the key elements in the plot. Needless to say, this affects to a certain degree my enjoyment of the story.

Like most of this author's books, it is hard to give an accurate synopsis of the story without giving away key plot developments and spoiling the fun for everybody who is reading this but has not read the book. Let me just say that we have a gargoyle hero, Lannes Hannelore, whose origins are not clear to me because I've not read that short story. I only know that he has siblings and he was apparently cursed to be a gargoyle. Oh, and his brother who was the hero in that story managed to become human again. How did that happen? Go read that short story because I certainly have no idea, heh. Anyway, Lannes disguises his wings and other not-so-human physical aspects of himself with an illusion.

As luck, destiny, fate, or whatever will have it, one melancholic evening, he stumbles upon a woman trying to steal his car. This woman is covered with blood and seems frantic to escape... something. The cops, maybe? Lannes, however, senses that this woman is in need of help and therefore he pretty much agrees to help her before she has ever considered asking for his aid. Who this woman is and how she comes to be in her current condition is the plot of the story. It's a paranormal one, with lots of unexpected developments to be found. Plus, this story also offers an unexpected glimpse into life of the founder of Dirk & Steele, which is a plus.

I normally enjoy this author's books even if I don't love them that much. Well, except for her debut effort, but hey, we can't get along all the time. However, this one is a very problematic story for me because of my constant feeling that I am missing big chunks of information when it comes to the hero, his race, and his motivations. Lannes is a nice guy, a gentleman with wings, come to think of it, but I wish I can describe him better than that. But I don't know him, alas. The heroine starts out a pretty annoying character as she is determined to blame herself for everything and anything, but she pulls herself together and manages to become a pretty good heroine as a result.

I find myself disagreeing with some of the decisions made by the author when it comes to this story, though. I know, it's her story, but still, a part of me feels strongly that the hero could have easily become a normal human and the story would not lose much as a result. In fact, if the hero is a normal guy, the story would be even more interesting because Lannes' abilities allows the gang to take some short cuts. The plot is actually a very interesting one - I can't help thinking that FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully will have a blast solving it.

However, the author muddles up the plot considerably by inserting two secondary characters that add nothing to the story other than irritation factor. Koni is alright, even if he is just taking up space when he's not flying out there and scouting, but I don't remember Rictor being as irritating as he is in this story. But then again, most of the secondary characters here are irritating because they know important information, but they do not reveal what they know until after Lannes and the heroine have found the information. A typical paraphrased scene of this nature will be something like this.

Hero: What a minute, you knew this all along and you couldn't tell me 180 pages ago?

Dumb secondary character: Well, I needed to be sure before I told you...

Hero: And you! I've known you for all my life, and you keep this from me even when you know that I am in deep trouble?

Idiot secondary character: Well, uh... um... hey, it's not my fault! The author threatened to make me spend the rest of the story laying eggs if I tell!

A plot in which it turns out that everyone but the hero and the heroine knows the most important details but won't tell because there will be no exciting long story otherwise is, in my opinion, not the way to go. And then, the story fizzles off into a most anticlimatic denouement, sigh.

Still, the romance is nice. Despite the fact that the characters are constantly on the run, Lannes and the heroine manage to connect in a most unexpectedly heartwarming and believable manner.

The Wild Road is therefore a first of sorts for me when it comes to this author's books. In her previous books, I find the plot more memorable than the romance, but here it is the other way around. That is not a bad thing, usually, but I also happen to wish that the author hasn't dealt with information in this story by having secondary characters withhold them in a most contrived manner. Sigh. This one isn't so wild after all, despite the potentially intriguing paranormal mystery.

Rating: 70


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