You Slay Me
by Katie MacAlister, fantasy (2004)
Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41152-8


I'm seeing many ridiculously overblown reviews pop up all over Amazon and Barnes & Noble, all written as if they are from the same script, for You Slay Me and it's just barely midway past September. I admire the way these fans mobilize themselves so quickly. Has the "jealous author" struck at poor Katie MacAlister a little earlier than usual this month? I notice a bad review on Amazon - must be the jealous author, no doubt. You MacAlisterites have better get to work countering this malicious bitch, so chop chop, get to work on those glowing and totally unwarranted comparisons to Laurell K Hamilton and MaryJanice Davidson quick!

Now, for everyone else who has a clearer head on his or her shoulders, I'm pleased to say that I am not once driven to asphyxiating myself during You Slay Me. Can this be the best post-Imbecile-Heroine-Rampage Katie MacAlister book ever? The heroine is still an imbecile, mind you, and if I can inflate my hands until they are the size of Mac trucks and smash my palms together over the head of Aisling Grey, I will and I won't wash my hands for a week, I tell you. But the demonic sidekick is a riot.

Part of the reason why this book works pretty well with me is because the author has toned down much of the in-your-face slapstick and scatalogical humor that overwhelm her previous books. Here, there is actually some moments of wit at work instead of just the author working a punchline five pages long after it's been totally played out. That is to say, I find enough portions of this book to be actually funny instead of forced. I like that. I still want the heroine dead, though.

Aisling, another American braindead export to Europe, this time Paris, is a courier gal. She is delivering a six-hundred year old dragon figurine artifact to Madame Aurora Deauxville when she stumbles upon Madame dead as a doornail in a scene that suggests that someone has been watching The Omen or Rosemary's Baby one too many time. A charming shapechanging dragon (you read that right), Drake Vireo - good grief, what is with names in romance novels today? - appears out of the blue and steals the figurine from Aisling, and this is just before the cops arrive to nail Aisling for murder. Is this where I order some Freedom Fries to make a stance against those insolent Frenchies? And is it just me or the author has plagiarized herself in the way she handles the murder mystery in this book?

As Aisling tries to locate Drake, she learns that (a) she is a Guardian, (b) she is a Dragon's Mate, and (c) she is a Demonlord. The Demonlord part comes from her accidentally summoning Jim, a demon who looks like a Newfoundland dolt eager to see the world, the Dragon's Mate part comes from Drake eventually realizing that Aisling can withstand his "vireo" "dragon's kiss" and therefore is his mate, and as for (a), well, I don't know, really.

A huge part of this story moves because Aisling is an idiot. She doesn't want to know anything about her newfound magic and roles and has to be forced-fed into doing so, whining and moaning vocally while she's at it. Drake offers her protection but she refuses it because she just can't stand him as he's so bossy and arrogant and she just can't trust him. Besides, he made her lose her job and THAT IS NOT FAIR and SHE WILL NEVER FORGIVE HIM! EVER! (But he's hot! And he gives her horny dreams!) Her "investigations" see her bumbling into trouble and causing endless problems to Drake and his Sect in their attempt to investigate the murder. Her priorities are screwed up, with her throwing temper tantrums because the hero won't stop in his save-the-world mission to indulge in her childish demands to be coddled. In short, she is just like every Katie MacAlister heroine in the past. Maybe I have read too many of this author's books to the point that I am numb to the nauseating effects of heroines like Aisling but I find her more irritating in a tolerable level than hateworthy, which is perplexing because Aisling is no different from the other idiots and believe me, I hate those idiots with a passion reserved for that idiot who invented the tight-lid thingie for pickle jars because I paid twenty bucks for a jar of gourmet cocktail onions and three days later, no one here can open that damned thing for me even after I've thrown hot water over it, burned the lid, and twisted the damned thing until my wrists ached.

The author is also up to her usual tricks of having the hero deliberately withholding information from Aisling just to keep the "twists" coming. Drake comes off as obnoxious at times. Because this book is the first in a planned series, Drake and Aisling are only just beginning at the end of the story. Which is to say, Aisling and Drake will be repeating their nonsense for the next few books and I can only hope that the author masters character development in time before the next book comes out. One day she'll run out of shadowy "jealous authors" to use as a shield to her inadequacies, after all.

The best thing about this book is Jim the Demon. He's cute. He's funny. He's gross. He's adorable. Did I mention that he's actually funny? The other secondary characters such as the gutter-mouthed Parisian cab driver are hits-and-misses. Ms MacAlister needs to exercise restraint when it comes to stopping a joke in time or at least varying the punchline. The supposedly funny scene where Aisling and a customs officer argue about the pronunciation of her name, for example, just goes on and on. Aisling pronounces her name ("Ash-lin") for the dolt. The dolt mispronounces it again and adds some disparaging remarks about her heritage. She corrects him one more time. Dang, he doesn't get it. So she repeats her name again. And he doesn't get it still. And on and on the scene goes until I just want to throw up my hands and mutter in exasperation, "I get it already! Enough!"

But in the end, the make or break moment comes when I close this book and I don't feel as if I've been wading through a moat of stupid. I don't know whether it's just me becoming desensitized to the author's brand of humor ("stupid is the new funny, heh heh heh snort") or the author is improving. I'd like to think that it's the latter. Jim is, after all, adorable. Maybe I'll take a peek at the next book just to make sure.

Rating: 60


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