I’m looking for a new urban fantasy series to read, and it seems I’ve been reduced to sifting through the dregs. Let’s start a countdown for Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding.
They’ll never see her coming. . . .
When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue—in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there—her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night she and the two other members of her Triad were the city’s star bounty hunters, mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor—and she can’t even remember what it was.
Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice—and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days Evy will die again—but this time there’s no second chance. . . .
Evy was murdered, but now she’s back. A friend of hers performed a resurrection spell, placing her soul into the body of a stranger, but she lost the memories of the last few days before her death in the process. Now, she only has three days before the spell wears off and she dies again… three days to solve her own murder.
It’s a really interesting concept, which is why I picked up the book in the first place. But the execution… I just wasn’t feeling it. Look, take this passage:
Wyatt: “You know, you’re showing amazing restraint.”
Evy: “With what? The cheesecake?”
Wyatt: “No, with not asking me about the night you died. And who else was in the room.”
Evy: “You’ll tell me when I need to know something.”
Wyatt: “Fair enough.”
– Three Days to Dead, Chapter 10
No, not “fair enough”. Wyatt has told you that you discovered some terrible truth relating to the rumors of a budding alliance between goblins and vampires – an alliance which, if it comes to fruition, could result in the devastation of the world and the enslavement of humanity beneath the heels of their new goblin and vampire overlords. You tried, literally with your dying breath, to convey this vital information, but were unable to because of someone who was in the room at the time – someone who is thus, presumably, a traitor involved in the plot. Possibly involved in the events leading to your death. Maybe even involved in that big genocide of Owlkins you feel oh-so-guilty about being indirectly responsible for. You have only three days – closer to two at this point in the story – to investigate each of the people who were in that room, determine their guilt or innocence, and put a stop to their evil plan. And you don’t even care enough to ask for the suspects’ names?
Well, there goes all the suspense and drama you might have gotten from your mystery with a ticking clock deadline, deflating like a punctured balloon making a humorously flatulent sound as it shrivels up. Because if Evy doesn’t even care enough about her own murder to ask the most basic of questions to begin investigating it, how can I?
Of course, once Evy does regain her memory of her death, the big surprise twist is that Wyatt was lying to her: she never actually discovered any vital information, there was no-one else present at her death, and Wyatt made the deal to resurrect her not to gain any vital clue to save humanity but because he was in love with her and wanted to spend a few more days with her. So, it doesn’t matter that Evy didn’t even try to solve the mystery, because there was never any mystery to be solved. And actually, given that Evy was murdered by the goblins specifically to motivate Wyatt into making the deal with Tovin into bringing her back, not because of anything relating to Evy but because Tovin needed a way to get Wyatt in his debt for part of his evil plan, Evy pretty much fits the bill of a woman getting stuffed into the fridge. This is probably the first story I’ve read where the fridged woman is the main character; so congratulations on that, I guess?
By the way, Wyatt: good job making Evy relive all her traumatic memories of being tortured and raped to death in an attempt to learn the non-existent truth behind a made-up mystery you invented because you didn’t want to admit you had her resurrected for purely selfish reasons. You ass. I never at any point in the book got anywhere close to liking Wyatt’s character; which spells a big problem for this series, if he’s going to be the main love interest. Frankly, I would have been more satisfied if he’d died at the end. It was established that Wyatt’s death could remove the 3 day time limit and allow Evy to continue to live on in her new body indefinitely – which, you know, pretty much has to happen, given that there are at least five sequels – so he could have had a big redemptive death scene where he gives his life in order to foil Tovin’s plan, give Evy additional life, and atone for lying to her about her death and resurrection. But no, instead he gets his own bullshit deus ex machina resurrection scene. Can anyone say, diminished impact of character mortality? Though, of course, only main characters are apparently worthy of cheating death in such a manner; even though they seem to have discovered this huge loophole that allows permanent resurrection, nobody’s going to offer to bring any of those poor dead Owlkins back to life.
Hey, speaking of the Owlkins: what exactly was the deal with that whole incident? So, a big deal was made about how Evy was framed for murdering her partners, and how the Hunters came down on her with totally excessive force for it. The speculation was that they had been pressured by the big Brass in the police, and that the Brass had been pressured by the Fey Council. And when we thought that there was a highly-placed traitor whose identity Evy had discovered, that made sense; someone within the system using it to bring her down. But evil mastermind, as we discover, is Tovin. And Tovin isn’t one of the Fey:
Among the oldest and wisest of the nonhumans in the city, Tovin is rumored to be an elf prince banished from Upside by his people for choosing a bride outside of his race. He’s also rumored to live in a mushroom, eat cats for breakfast, and fly during full moons. No human I’ve met prior to Wyatt had ever seen him, or any other elf. Neither Fey nor Dreg, elves have six-hundred-year life spans. Tovin has supposedly spent the last four centuries among humans.
– Three Days to Dead, Chapter 8
I’m not seeing how Tovin was in a position to get the Council to go all overboard in hunting down Evy. I mean, he was obviously responsible for the initial set-up, since the other members of her team were killed by half-vampires and Tovin has an alliance with the Halfies. But after that, if the Council jumped right over “Bring her in for questioning” to “Nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”, that’s kind of on them. I guess the alleged good guys just really callously decided it was worth committing genocide on the peaceful Owlkins in order to catch one measly fugitive. She was accused of killing two of them, so they decided the rational and proportionate response was to murder 300 innocent civilians? Not really feeling any sympathy for these people.
Ah, well. I liked at least one character: Isleen, the vampire princess. At least that’s something, right? I mean, sure, she’s some kind of blood-sucking abomination, but she probably commits the fewest objectionable acts out of any of the characters in the book. Even Evy manages to shoot an innocent bystander while engaging in a public running gun battle. Say, I don’t suppose it would be too much to ask for to read a series with Isleen as protagonist instead?
Now, I like to be lenient when reviewing book series. Even if the first book isn’t the greatest, I tend to at least begin reading the next one to see if it doesn’t improve itself. Hell, I gave the Felix Gomez series like half a dozen second chances, and I’d consider a number of those books to be worse than this one. The thing is, though, that my local library had a copy of every Felix Gomez book except the last one; and by then, I was pretty much committed to seeing how the series ended. With Dreg City, though, the first book is the only one my library has. And I really, really can’t bring myself to justify buying however the hell many books are left in this series based on the level of quality I’ve seen in this first installment.
Maybe, someday, if either I acquire a significantly larger disposable income or my library acquires a larger selection of the books, I’ll return to the Dreg City series. But I wouldn’t advise holding your breath for the next review.
Final Rating: 2/5