Mistral's Kiss, by Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton’s most recent book, Mistral’s Kiss, the fifth title in the Meredith Gentry series, is better than I expected. It’s not as good as the first two installments in the series, but Mistral’s Kiss has some decent action scenes, ends on a tantalizing cliffhanger, and—this is definite praise—it is way better than Micah.

“Better than I expected” is not the same as good, however. Ms. Hamilton has abandoned all pretensions to faux-noir, and for a plot that is largely driven by sex, Mistral’s Kiss fails spectacularly as erotica. I’m not suggesting that she draw a tasteful veil as soon as her characters’ lips meet, but Hamilton’s breathless play-by-play got old fast. My mind frequently wandered, and it never ended up anywhere pleasant—instead of being titillated, I found myself reflecting that over the course of a 212-page book, the heroine has sex with three different people without showering once.


From comments she’s made to the press, one gets the feeling that these characters live a fully fleshed-out life inside Hamilton’s head, complete with non-sexual interactions. Sadly, we’re rarely shown those moments on the page, and sex scenes are no substitute for character development. Several of Meredith’s guards don’t even merit a speaking line in Mistral’s Kiss. Plot threads are ignored left and right—what happened to Merry’s ex-fiancée, or her creepy uncle, King Taranis? If Meredith’s not jumping them, Hamilton isn’t interested. I eagerly looked forward to the scenes featuring Merry’s Aunt Andais, the malevolent queen of the Unseelie court. Sure, Andais is pure liquid evil, but at least Merry wasn’t going to sleep with her, and that meant that the plot was bound to move forward a few steps.

Unfortunately, Ms. Hamilton does not sanction fanfiction. Producing complex heroines, interesting supporting casts, and a sharply defined mythology should be her top priorities, but she has chosen instead to focus on new and creative excuses for Meredith to have sex with an ever-increasing troop of also-rans. That’s her privilege, but if Ms. Hamilton continues pick tedious sex scenes over basic storytelling, then fans of her books would be better served if she gave fanfic writers her blessing to develop an actual plot.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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