Sunday, May 4, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave: Cedar Sanderson's Trickster Noir

When I read books like Cedar Sanderson's Trickster Noir, I can't help but feel hideously uneducated. Since childhood, I've been an omnivorous reader, but for some reason, my background in fantasy and folklore has remained sadly limited. Consequently, I doubt I'd be able to match Cedar's ability to pull fantastic creatures and trickster deities from the European, Japanese and Native American traditions and mix them all together in a coherent, entertaining whole.

Trickster Noir picks up where Pixie Noir left off, with Lom recovering from critical injuries sustained in the climax of the first book and Bella preparing to take on her new role as the king's consort Underhill. The novel is, essentially, divided into three acts. In the first, Bella and her family members are tasked with clearing out an ogres' nest near Mt. St. Helens. In the second, Lom takes a sabbatical away from the court to recover his strength and his self-confidence. In the third, Lom and Bella head to the Eastern Court to deal with a new threat.

When I reviewed Pixie Noir a few months ago, I expressed my desire to see more of the inner workings of the Western Court and the reasons behind its slide into decadence. Unfortunately, Trickster Noir doesn't quite fulfill that wish. Indeed, the aforementioned episodic nature of the story gives the entire novel a "middle book of the trilogy" vibe. There are important things that happen on the individual character level (see below), but overall, Trickster Noir feels like a break from the larger story rather than a seamless continuation. The machinations of the Dark Court that drove Pixie Noir are basically missing in this installment, and the intrigue in the Western Court is hinted at but never confronted outright.

On the other hand, I like that the consequences of Pixie Noir linger well into the second book. If you're going to break your hero, you should address the follow-up -- and Cedar's take on how a tough and usually self-reliant man might respond to being suddenly incapacitated feels well thought out and psychologically real. I also didn't find the references to Lom and Bella's sexual continence - or to their wedding plans - to be at all obtrusive; on the contrary, I found their choices appropriate for the setting and personally refreshing.

In the end, did I enjoy Trickster Noir? Yes! While it didn't meet all of my expectations, it is a fun read. If you liked Pixie Noir, I urge you to pick this one up.

Final Verdict: Recommended.

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