Book Review: Kelly Gay’s Better Part of Darkness

Posted February 7, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Kelly Gay’s Better Part of Darkness

Better Part of Darkness

in Paperback edition on November 24, 2009 and has 394 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Charlie Madigan urban fantasy series set in Atlanta. What has Atlanta done to the world to be the setting for so many urban fantasies?

My Take

I enjoyed this very much, but every once in a while, there’s a tiny disconnect and it can be a bit juvenile, and it makes me take a step back, but for the most part, I liked this start to this series. There’s a wide range of interesting characters from the truly good to the truly evil with a nice sprinkling in between. Gay has already set up differing levels of conflict between them with lots of potential for romance. There’s even a dystopian element to it as well as a challenge to our own perceptions of devils and vampires of all sorts.

Devils? Vampires? Not the usual character type I think of when I hear the word “alien”.

Our heroine has a nice bit of guilt built in with her non-actions the night her twin brother died. Then there’s her conflict over her ex-husband with the daughter as a built-in goad. Lots of soul-searching with the realizations Charlie comes to about Bryn.

Gay also teases with all kinds of romantic possibilities. She’s certainly left lots of room for things to develop. Gay was quite tricky in providing Charlie with her unusual abilities and how they came about, using it to usher in the issues that will plague this series while giving Charlie room to grow. She also did well in introducing the cast of characters that I suspect will be with us throughout the series. I did like the resolution at the end…phew…although there are still plenty of issues ahead.

Oh yeah, it’s my kind of book:

“You’d be amazed what a clearance sale at the Apple Store does to some people.”

I don’t quite buy Charlie’s “shyness”. That whole scene at The Bath House where she insists on keeping her bra and panties on underneath the sheer robe is definitely not in keeping with being unobtrusive. Talk about making sure you stand out… I still don’t grasp the idea of the Elysians. Gay talks about Hank being one and then there’s Carruthers who is yet another definition whereas the Charbydons seem to be demon-like.

In some ways, Charlie reminds me of Anita Blake: all bluster, rushing in where fools fear to tread, and she doesn’t care who she ticks off while being incredibly shy about her body.

It’s rough with little finesse and yet thoroughly intriguing with loads of action.

The Story

A new drug is causing people to drop into comas, and it really hits home when one of those victims is Emma’s adored babysitter and friend.

Charlie was already interested in finding the source. Having it affect Amanda simply ensures that Charlie will dig in and root them out.

The Characters

Detective Charlie Madigan is a cop with the Integration Task Force (ITF). She died six months ago, but was brought back. It’s the how that is the question. Emma is her twelve-year-old daughter; Will is her recent ex and a successful building contractor. Bryn is her younger sister, an earth mage with a shop in Underground Atlanta. She’s also a member of the Off-World Garden Society and the Atlanta League of Mages. Serious stuff. Gizmo, a gargoyle, is a very effective security system.

Detective Hank Williams is her siren partner with a magic voicebox. Liz is the medical examiner. Chief Abernathy is their boss with a major secret he’d rather not share. Doctor Katherine Berkowitz is the department shrink whom Charlie is ordered to see. Too bad she can’t be ordered to wait to start up her shopping list till later.

Aaron is a warrior mage, a Magnus actually, with an interest in Bryn. Zara is the head concierge of The Bath House and very interested in Hank. Rex is a Revenant with a penchant for treading the boards. Auggie is a goblin with information.

Amanda Mott is Emma’s babysitter, friend, and big sister all in one. Marti is her mother; her father Cassius is a jerk of the first order, into drugs, gambling, and more, all financed by his smarter, older brother, Titus. A scientist, Titus Mott is head of Mott Technologies and knows a lot more than he’s saying. He also knows a lot less than he thinks. Andy Myers is Dr. Mott’s assistant.

Mynogan (think “Mynie”) is a High Elder of the House of Abaddon. Carreg is Lord Lieutenant of the House of Astarot. Normally the two would never mix. Otorius is a representative of the Charbydon Political Party and a real jerk.

Gregori Tennin is the jinn boss, the leader of the Atlanta tribe and a crime boss. Jinn are warriors, bodyguards to the nobility of Charbydon. Vicious. Len is one who hangs in there. Sian is Gregori’s daughter; a lovely hybrid despised by all.

The ITF is law enforcement for all immigrant beings. Each partnership in the ITF is one human and one off-worlder. Elysia and Charbydon, think demons, exist on a parallel plane and share the ruling of their planet. It’s been thirteen years since scientists discovered its existence. That these aliens had been visiting earth for thousands of years. Underground Atlanta is where most of the aliens congregate. The Adonai are divinities and consider themselves gods; the ruling elite of Elysia. Warlocks are a warrior sect of Elysian mage. Veritas is a super-secret club. Revenants are spirit entities who will grant you your greatest desire in exchange for your body. When it’s time for that body to die. Wraiths are their evil cousins.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a purply gray with a flash of burgundy in Charlie’s shortie tank top and the gold gilt of the title. The style of the cover reminds me of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye covers, although Charlie here is revealing a rounded tip on her ear! The background flits between misty and sharp and appears to be underground. That basement, perhaps?

I guess the title does refer to The Better Part of Darkness, seeing as Charlie has a type of success at the end.