Friday, July 3, 2009

Debut Graduate Review: Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

Blue Diablo (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
by Ann Aguirre (website, blog)
Publisher: Roc
Paperback: $6.99

Corine Solomon is a handler—when she touches an object she instantly knows its history and its future. Using her ability, she can find the missing—which is why people never stop trying to find her. Like her ex-boyfriend Chance, who needs Corine’s gift to find someone dear to them both. But the search proves dangerous as it leads them into a strange world of demons and sorcerers, ghosts and witchcraft, zombies—and black magic...

When Tia first asked me to read Blue Diablo, I warned her that I'd read Ann Aguirre's debut novel, Grimspace (which Tia reviewed here), and it didn't hook me the way I was hoping it would. So, to be honest, I started Blue Diablo anticipating that I might not like it.

Naturally, I enjoyed it and breezed right through it. Doesn't that always happen?

Blue Diablo is the first in a new series by Ann Aguirre. This series sits squarely in the urban fantasy camp, while Aguirre's previous series, which started with Grimspace, is science fiction.

I have to say my enjoyment of Blue Diablo was based on the characters, not the plot. The plot was serviceable, but I never really cared whether the characters located the missing person they were trying to find. I didn't care about her, and I sometimes felt the characters acted as if they weren't missing her all that much either, although the narration assured me they were.

But the characters themselves were fun. Corine Solomon isn't a snarky heroine (thank God), and she's not kickbutt, either. In fact, she's the least athletic of all the characters in the book. I can relate to that.

For the sake of the plot she has to work with her ex, Chance, and they spend the whole book bickering and learning things about each other that they didn't realize when they were a couple. It was a skillfully drawn relationship. Of course it had weak spots here and there, but overall this relationship was what kept me reading. It was just that much fun. I loved all the history these two people had and how it was reflected in their daily interactions.

The other thing I liked a lot about Blue Diablo was the sense of place. Blue Diablo was full of the little details that bring a setting to life. Aguirre says in the acknowledgments section that she did her best to capture the magic of living as an expatriate in Mexico City, and I thought she did a great job.

I love books where the setting is like another character in the story. You feel like you're there. You get the flavor of it. Too often I don't find this in urban fantasy, where the fantasy elements seem to take over and the setting doesn't get fleshed out. How do the rest of you feel about this? How important is it for you to get a sense of place when you're reading?


ediFanoB said...

Just forwarded the link of your review to my wife. I think it is interesting for her.

Tia Nevitt said...

I think it's fun that we've had the opposite experiences with Ann Aguirre's novels. I really enjoyed Grimspace, but Blue Diablo didn't hook me so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

As for setting--I love an unusual setting, or even a usual setting if it becomes a "character" as you describe.

Raven said...

Edi, I hope she likes it!

Tia, this setting was also interesting because it was non-American for some of the book.

Maria said...

Yeah, I'd have to say that Blue didn't hook me so much. It was okay, I enjoyed most of it, but I thought it was uneven--in both plotting and characterization. There were some good moments, some meh, and so on.

Chicory said...

Setting is a funny thing. I never really appreciated it until I came across historic fiction writer Gillian Bradshaw. She is just amazing. She has incredible characters, and they really seem affected by their settings. Now that's what I measure by. Are the characters affected by the world? If not, the setting is just trappings, no matter how well it's thought out. (That doesn't make me good at creating settings -just means I'm aware of how they should be.)

Raven said...

Chicory, funny you should mention Gillian Bradshaw. I was just thinking about her Gwalchmei trilogy not that long ago. In fact, I think I brought it up in the comments on Ana and Thea's post re: The Sword in the Stone.

I'm pretty sure the only other thing I've read by her was a novel about the Byzantine emperor Justinian (actually I think it was about his bastard son; does that sound familiar?). I remember enjoying the read, but I don't remember how the setting was portrayed.

Chicory said...

`Justintine's bastard son' might have been `The Bearkeeper's Daughter.' I haven't gotten a-hold of the Gwalchmei trilogy (unfortunately out of print) but I absolutely adore `Island of Ghosts.' It's about these warriors sent to guard Hadrian's wall. There's all sorts of cool culture clashes, and the hero is AWESOME.

Raven said...

Yes, The Bearkeeper's Daughter! That's the one. Thanks. :)

Island of Ghosts sounds like it would be right up my alley. I'm particularly partial to books set in Roman/pre-Saxon Britain, and I love culture clashes. I'll have to see if I can get hold of it.