Friday, May 6, 2016

Guilty By Association - E. A. Copen (Judah Black #1)

Guilty by Association (Judah Black, #1)
This book brought me fond memories of my teenage years watching Charmed, which was my favorite show in all the world.  Why is this?  Because one of the characters fairly early on talks about a wendigo!  Dedicated Charmed watches will remember that in Season 1, Piper got turned into a wendigo (because the sisters were always getting turned into some sort of magical creature) and then there was the original wendigo running around and the other sisters didn't know which was which and they had to shoot the real one in the heart with a flare gun to kill it, which, let's face it, was pretty bad-ass.  Piper, of course, escaped the chilling fate of being stuck as a wendigo forever because she hadn't yet eaten someone, or something like that.  It's been a while, and so I don't remember the specifics, but trust me, I remember that "wendigo getting shot with a flare gun" thing like it was yesterday.  In fact, I think after this review I'm going to go watch some Charmed for old times' sake.

Anyway.  Guilty by Association is E. A. Copen's first book and also the first in a series focusing on a paranormal regulatory/investigative agent named Judah in a world where supernatural creatures are out in the open.  She works for a government agency called the BSI, and I do not remember what that stands for, but they handle all issues relating to vampires, werewolves, and fae, and probably some other creatures we haven't encountered yet.  Judah is also a code name, hinting that name magic is something to be taken seriously in this world.  Anyway, Judah has just moved to Paint Rock, Texas with her eleven-year-old son, Hunter, after something went down in their old home in Cleveland to get her reassigned.  Paint Rock was once a normal town but was emptied of most of its human inhabitants and turned into a reservation for the area's paranormals, including a vampire coven, a werewolf pack, and a handful of fae.  The book opens with Judah discovering a dead werewolf in the laundromat, and it gets crazier from there as she tries to solve both the murder and what appears to be a connected series of kidnappings.

This was a great book.  In style and general feel, the thing it reminds me of most is Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series.  I'm not sure why this is, precisely, because the two aren't actually very similar in content at all other than that they're paranormal fantasies.  Maybe it's the writing style?  I've always found Caine's writing style to be very engaging, and that was definitely the case here.  All of Copen's characters were fully fleshed-out and served their purpose without seeming superfluous.  The most superfluous one I can think of was Patsy, but I suspect she'll be a bigger player in future books.  (I do hope there will be future books.)  At first, I really didn't like that Judah had a kid because 1) I do not like children and 2) The last book I read that heavily featured a child of the main character featured long and detailed descriptions of the child-friendly playlists they listened to and then ended in a ridiculous kidnapping plot.  That didn't happen here.  I think Hunter fit very well into the story, and his background and character development lend themselves heavily to the plot as a whole.  That was great; it's so annoying when children are featured as characters just as "wallpaper" for the sake of them being there, without them actually having any impact on the story.  Hunter had impact, and that makes him A-okay in my book!

The world building here was also well-done, though a little confusing when I think about it a bit more in depth.  The basic story is that vampires came "out of the coffin" to steal a Sookie Stackhouse phrase, and they dragged the werewolves and fae out with them in order to help share the heat.  That made sense.  What also made a lot of sense to me was the rampant discrimination against these "new" types of being.  Having them being forced out of their regular homes and onto a reservation was a very clear comparison to historical discrimination seen in the United States and I thought the point was very clearly made, though occasionally handled with some well-deserved lightheartedness, like when one character mentions that the cops manning the checkpoints between the reservation and the outside world are racist and another goes "Against werewolves or Indians?" or something like that.  What was a little more confusing was the way humans with magic are treated.  Judah has some magic, though not a lot, and it's implied that some humans have a lot more.  (Does Father Reed fall into this category or not?  He would seem to, but I have a suspicion that he's not actually human... Hm...)  But these humans, despite their supernatural abilities, don't seem to face any discrimination at all.  Judah faces a little bit of jibing when she first breaks out her abilities, but after that no one questions or avoids her due to them.  I wonder why humans with magic weren't lumped into a different sort of "other" group and also persecuted, though maybe not to the extent that the beings who very obviously are not human were.

I'll tell you what I missed in this book: a romantic subplot.  I know, I know, I am not obligated one, but I think it's the whole "this reminded me of Rachel Caine" thing that had me looking for one around every corner, because romance features pretty heavily in her books.  Did this book need a romantic subplot?  No.  Judah is a strong independent woman who don't need no man.  I can see where a romantic plotline, had there been one, could have been seen as pandering.  (But then, I like being pandered to.)  Did this suffer for not having a romance?  No... But come on, Sal was so awesome, how could you not be hoping they would hook up the entire time?  Granted, that might have made the whole episode in the Ways a little weirder, but still.  I wanted it.

This is getting a bit long, so I'll wrap it up with this: overall, this was a great book, and I would definitely read the next one.  I think Judah and the other inhabitants of Paint Rock have a lot of potential, and that there's probably some "big bad" brewing in the middle distance for them to face, if the end was any indication.  It's one of those books that wraps up all the plot points and has closure, but still leaves plenty of room for more.  Was it one of my absolute favorite books that I'll reach for over and over and over again?  Probably not; those books are few and far between.  But I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good, developed paranormal fantasy with a strong female character as the lead.

Also, I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review--but I liked it so much I went out and bought a copy afterward, so that probably speaks for itself!

A solid 4 stars out of 5.

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