by syaffolee

Of Violinists and Mermen

What on earth does one have to do with the other? Well, if there’s anything I can say about Marjorie M. Liu, she sure likes to mix it up in her stories. It isn’t necessary to read the five previous stories in her Dirk & Steele series to understand her latest offering, Soul Song*, a gritty paranormal romance with some surprising points of complexity. Fluffy–no. Adventure, violence, sex, a little humor–yes. I’d compare it to a Bond flick with magic thrown in.

During one of her concerts in Vancouver, violinist Kitala Bell “sees” the murder of a woman sitting in a front seat of the audience. Kit normally tries to ignore her talent for seeing violent deaths, but in this case, she is compelled to warn this woman, Alice, of her vision. For her pains, Alice’s uncle is killed and Kit and Alice are kidnapped by a pair of corrupt police officers intent on delivering Alice to their mysterious employer. Although Alice remains in their clutches, Kit is rescued by a man who can sing others to their deaths and breathe underwater.

M’cal, however, is no do-gooder. He is Krackeni, a merman, enslaved by a beautiful witch who forces him to steal souls. Kit is his next target, but his instant fascination with her when he watched her perform on stage makes him warn her of the danger that he poses to her. What he is unaware of is that Kit herself has powers that have influence on his captivity.

There is much going on–from the obvious relationship between Kit and M’cal, to the witch’s motives, the circumstances and reasons behind Alice’s abduction, M’cal’s estrangement from his father, the appearance of shape-shifting agents from the Dirk & Steele agency, and even Kit’s subtle tug-of-war with her voodoo priestess grandmother speaking from beyond the grave. Somehow, Liu manages to tie everything together in the finale.

My minor quibble with this novel is the pacing of the relationship. Twenty-four hours seem awfully fast. But what do I know. The rest of the action-packed plot does slow it down a bit. I’m also not too sure about the use of the terms “fiddle” and “violin” interchangeably–for some people, they’re the same thing, but for me, they’re not (unless Kit has been switching out the bridges and the strings while I wasn’t looking). There were some details/possible references that I did enjoy. Like the description of Vancouver–hey, it’s easier to visualize someplace if you’ve been there and the author even gets the street names right. M’cal’s talent reminded me of the myth about the sirens that lured sailors to their deaths. And the name Kitala Bell–is that inspired by the violinist Joshua Bell? But I guess I’ll never know the answer to that unless I stopped lurking at the author’s weblog.

*I received this novel as an ARC for a buzz campaign.