Melisa Michaels,
Sister to the Rain
(Roc, 1998)

Novels about humans interacting with the world of Fairy are abundant. Good novels about humans and elves are harder to find. Unfortunately, Melisa Michaels' Sister to the Rain isn't one of them. The novel is a mediocre attempt to create a "shared world" in which elves and humans coexist.

Private Investigator Rosie Lavine and her partner, Shannon Arthur, are hired to investigate "The Trouble" at an elven artist's community in the California hills. Rosie warily accepts the assignment; the last time she got involved with elves, it almost cost her her life. At first, "The Trouble" manifests in small, bothersome ways -- eerie midnight music and strange rustlings in the underbrush. About midway through the investigation, however, a teenager is killed, and Rosie finds herself caught up in a battle between elven nobles and Queen Tytonia. (Gripe at Michaels for the spelling, not me.)

Sister to the Rain is Michaels' second novel, a sequel of sorts to Cold Iron. The good thing is that one doesn't have to be familiar with the first novel to understand the second. The bad thing is that Michaels creates a subplot about Rosie's feelings for Killer, the elven rock star she protected in Cold Iron -- a subplot she fails to resolve by the end of the book. The lack of resolution isn't really the problem, though; it's the fact that Rosie's love problems have no real place in this story. Michaels also assumes that readers aren't familiar with elves at all. To remedy this problem, she offers annoying little explanations about elven morality and honor codes throughout the novel.

I wanted to like this story, really. Even though the characters were decent, Rosie's first-person point-of-view narration made me want to scream. Her voice alternates between common slang terms to really academic-sounding explanations. The dialogue also suffers from too accurate an ear; Michaels' reports everything just as it is said -- full of "ahs" and "ums" and all sorts of unnecessary fillers. The plot itself has some major problems, too. Michaels details every tiny part of the investigation, repeating information over and over and over ... well, you get the point. To top it all off, Tytonia appears at the end and whisks everyone off to Fairy so that the reader is left with no conflict resolution. Instead, things are just hinted at, and not in that good way that leaves you mulling over a book for days. This is that bad way that makes you throw the book across the room in disgust.

Sister to the Rain started off with a delightful situation and a main character that I wanted to enjoy. However, Michaels makes too many errors that should have been caught in either the workshop stage or the editing stage. The novel is okay for a quick read if you're good at overlooking such things, but otherwise is a waste of time. I would, however, recommend this book to aspiring writers as an example of what mistakes not to make.

[ by Audrey Clark ]

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