Richelle Mead,
Succubus Blues
(Kensington, 2007)

A friend of mine spied me with my reading copy of Succubus Blues in my hand. "Succubus, eh?" he said, obviously appreciating the deep eyes, pale skin and moist lips -- OK, the generous cleavage -- depicted on the cover. "That's some kind of sex demon, right?" Then he looked briefly confused. "Wait, then what's a succubi?" he asked, not recognizing the nonstandard plural form of the word. "A succubi does men and women," I replied, gamely. Misinformation, sure, but perhaps I gave first-time author Richelle Mead an extra sale.

Honestly, when Succubus Blues arrived on my review stack, I was worried. It looked good, but it also raised a few warning flags; this could, I thought, be another lascivious sex romp disguised as urban fantasy/horror, proving little more than an excuse to have demons and other supernatural creatures get naked and sweaty with lustful mortals.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find relatively little graphic sex -- apart from a few torrid scenes here and there, and one opening encounter that will bring joy and hope to basement-dwelling ubergeeks everywhere. Succubus Blues is a very good novel, featuring (obviously) an "alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men." In exchange for their souls, of course, but Georginia Kincaid apparently makes that little trade quite worthwhile in her Seattle stomping grounds.

Georgina's life is troubled, because she can get all the sex she wants but love and romance are largely denied her. Carnal acts -- even really good kisses -- steal life force away, and while Georgina is immortal, it doesn't serve well to deplete and kill the men she loves. So she leads an emotionally vacant life, supplementing her nocturnal duties with a more mundane job as an assistant bookstore manager, hanging out when time allows with a couple of vampire pals, a demon or two and even the occasional angel. Technically, succubi are evil, but Georgina doesn't get too involved with the politics of her job.

But then someone starts killing the people around her, and Georgina finds bigger issues to deal with than romance. Is it an amateur vampire slayer, inspired by the exploits of a popular TV heroine, or is something more sinister at work? And what's a poor succubus to do when the doors of both Heaven and Hell close on her cries for assistance?

Figures that Georgina would suddenly find, not one, but two romantic possibilities in her life.

Succubus Blues is a damn fine first book, and Mead can be proud to make such a bold stride into the market. Her protagonist is sexy, appealing, smart and resourceful, but amped-up sensuality isn't much use against the thing stalking the streets of Seattle.

The book is hardly action-packed; Mead moves the story along slowly, spending more time on characters than plot, so adrenaline junkies may be bored. That's a shame, because the characters are extremely well-developed, and the action she provides is certainly worth the wait. Sexaholics may want to avoid this one, too; the sex in this book is mostly of the "tease and titillate" variety, not the graphic stuff you'd expect if Georgina's cleavage-baring dress on the cover was cut just a little lower. The denouement, while not too hard to spot well in advance, is still grist for one good read with plenty left over for a sequel.

Don't let the title scare you away. Succubus Blues sits comfortably on the shelf with the likes of urban fantasy writers Charlaine Harris, Christopher Moore, Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs. I look forward to seeing Mead's name appear on my shelf again soon.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

26 May 2007

what's new