Monday, February 13, 2012

Book review: Blacker than Black by Rhi Etzweiler

Blacker than BlackBlacker than Black by Rhi Etzweiler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

cue: I Don't Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar.

So many lines in that song reflect my feelings about Blacker than Black. I know it requires a bit of a stretch, but let me paraphrase this classic song with my impressions of BtB.

I don't know how to love Blacker than Black, what to do, how to move it from my consciousness.

I've been changed, yes really changed (mostly because this was the sixth vampire book I read in a row) .

In these past few days when I see myself, I seem like someone else (that kitty over there looks like a yummy snack).

I don't know how to take this, I don't see why BtB moves me
It's a book, it's just a book.

And I've had so many books before in very many ways, it's just one more

Should I bring it down, should I scream and shout (and believe me, I felt like doing that for the first 52% of the book)

Should I speak of love, let my feelings out
I never thought I'd come to this, what's it all about...

Ok, enough of JCS. If I go any further I'll have to send a royalty check to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Read the damn blurb and/or book if you want the rest of this to make any sense to you.

I sent a request to Riptide Publishing to review Blacker than Black ages ago-- like mid-November, even. I didn't get my hands on it until just before Rhi Etzweiler visited my Bitch Factor 10 blog in January. While I waited for BtB to finish edits, I busied myself with several other books I needed to review. It just so happens, though, that I had a string of vampire books to read-- with BtB being the last in my to-be-read pile. Some of those six books were amazing. Some were pretty good. BtB falls in the pretty good category.

Blacker than Black was a hard book for me to get into. It's not that I minded that Etzweiler's vampires were of a different breed (genus: non-blood-sucking lyche)-- I liked her take on psychic vampires. Black, the MC, does have his charms. But Black did not make a good narrator for me. Black was often clueless and fretful about the things going on around him. Sometimes it can be fun to grow in knowledge, along with the narrator-- but here, it was a bit torturous for me. And, for most of the book, Black does not have the lyche overlord (please don't call him a vampire) Leonard Garthelle figured out, so I, as a somewhat-interested reader, did not learn enough about him-- and Leonard was my fave character in the book! I can't explain my attraction to Garthelle-- is it his aloofness? Is it his possessiveness? Is it his untrustworthiness? Hey, Mary Magdalene had trouble figuring out JC, so I guess BtB has me in the same boat where Leonard is concerned.

Can I tell you something that was kinda meh for me? The whole mystery that Leonard uses Black and his sister, Jhez, to "solve." I used to have a thing for mysteries, back in the day. But I think my middle-aged muddled brain has such issues keeping up with clues that I no longer enjoy who-dun-its. And in BtB I didn't really give a fuck about that part of the book-- and the fact that it takes up so much of the first half of BtB left me wanting...wanting to get to the sex! But oh boy, when we get our first taste of the sex it's um... orgy-rific...but perhaps without the "rific" part. I didn't care about any of the characters that were involved in the fuckfest-- and I might have been more interested in it if it had been more detailed or humorous...or relevant? It just seemed like a very odd thing.

Oh yeah, speaking of odd...

*whispers cryptically* Etzweiler includes a "genderfuck"-- and I'm not going to tell you what it is, but I will say, it wasn't enough genderfuck-y for me. This particular issue seems almost like an afterthought or an unnecessary twist, because in the end, this issue doesn't seem to have much bearing on the story. There is more significance in the mention of the color and drape of Castle Dragulhaven's furnishings than in revelations about lyche sexual biology, which could have explored what the differences mean for procreation or psycho/social sexual expression. If Etzweiler wasn't going to make this issue more central to the relationship between Black and Leonard, I would have preferred for that part to be left out.

Just one more odd thing before I move on to my likes in Blacker than Black. It chafes my hide that the word "chafe" (or related derivations) appears at least 14 times in the text. Just as bad is the "keying" of voices-- usually lower. I know it's totally anal that I actually use my Kindle to count the number of times words and phrases get used, but sheesh! The overuse of these words drove me bonkers!

Ok, what I liked about Blacker than Black. I love the snarky sister, Jhez. I think I would have liked their friend Blue more if I had had more exposure to him. I'm always intrigued by vampire social structure and politics, and for the most part I like the way Etzweiler has constructed this topsy-turvy world where lyches are more prominent and powerful than humans.

Let's wrap it up. I was rather ambivalent about Blacker than Black until reaching just past the half-way mark. The beginning of the book is a slow build as Black discovers the draw of the lyches, their world and how he fits in it. Most of the characters are interesting, to say the least-- Leonard, though, takes the cake, the pie, and the red velvet cupcakes. The romance (when we finally, finally get to it) is just steamy enough, and mostly believable-- Black may be a prostitute-of-sorts, but he's not an easy lay, especially with all his trust issues.

I do think that Rhi Etzweiler is a talented writer. I think Blacker than Black, though, could have used a tauter narrative and better editing. I didn't know how to love it, in the beginning, but eventually Blacker than Black won me over. I am interested in a sequel, if there's going to be one. But I'm going to be royally chafed and my voice will key immeasurably screechy if we do not learn more about Black, Jehz, Blue and Leonard in the sequel. Leonard, especially!

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