It's hard to imagine a worse familial situation than being married to two men and, due to an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances, being simultaneously pregnant with both of their children. Add in a psychotic father who wants you dead and you really have a party. So how do Kate and Curran get themselves involved with this interesting family? In Kate Daniel's world, panacea may not cure all ills, but it does help with loupism. With Julie's best friend in dire need, Curran, Kate, and most of their gang head off to Europe to try to get their hands on the magical medicine in exchange for guarding the pregnant woman from her loving relatives.
Unfortunately, certain aspects of the book didn't really work for me, and I'm one of those loveable people who can't seem to stop with that statement; I have a deep compulsion to explain exactly why. I know it's heresy to not love these books. Please don't hurt me. If this review will make you angry, gentle reader, please take this opportunity to stop reading.
Part of the problem--and yes, I know I'm admitting this six books into the series--is that I somehow never formed a strong sympathetic connection with Kate. I really don't know why--in the abstract, her personality is perfect. Kate, it's me, not you.
When you combine this little problem with my Curran issues, all I'm left with to enjoy is the plot, humour, and worldbuilding-- usually more than enough to make the books incredibly readable. Unfortunately, there were a few other problems in this case, at least half of which are my fault. First, I listened to this on audio because it was readily available and my library hold on the book probably won't come through until January. This was a terrible decision. I strongly disliked the narrator: she has a nice voice and is quite emotive, but not only does she turn most of her "s's" into slushy "sh's"; she also does the worst accents I've had the displeasure of hearing since I last failed to talk my dad out of doing Monty Python imitations. I don't understand why a narrator would attempt accents they don't know. FYI, Southerners can pronounce diphthongs, Scots is different than Irish and both are different from whatever she was trying to do, Italians don't actually talkah likeah Chefah Boyardee, and I refuse to believe anyone talks like herrrr Ukrrrranian accent. It took significant effort to translate their voices into sane versions, and it left me little patience with internal inconsistencies.
**edit: as it turns out, who Did Not Do The Research? Carly. That's who. Originally, I griped about how panacea appeared to come out of nowhere, and should have been mentioned in the last book. I thought I had quite cleverly checked my facts--not only did I skim the sections; I also did a keyword search. But as it turns out, I was wrong--panacea was mentioned, although not by name. Relevant passage (spoilertagged for length):
I'm thrilled to discover that I was in error; knowing that the Andrews didn't just slap on the panacea plot makes me feel far more secure in the world they have created. However, I still do have issues with the way these features are added to the world. The Andrews tend to retcon as follows: someone mentions a worldbuilding revision and Kate, as an aside, infodumps to the reader, speaking as if about a familiar concept. Since Kate knew nothing of panacea in the last book, I still think presenting panacea in such a manner was a bit "off". Also, did you notice that panacea also became more effective in this book? Every time Kate infodumped matter-of-factly to the reader, it jerked me out of the narrative to think back, which led to recognizing a dolphin-pirate-infested boatload of questionable logic and internal inconsistencies. For example, why is Kate so worried about her potential future baby going loup? An infusion of her blood can cure Lyc V and we've seen just how powerful Roland's blood is. Her baby would most likely be unable to shift, let alone go loup.(show spoiler)
And why were the characters apparently playing a game of "how many people can we fit into an incredibly obvious trap"? Twice?(show spoiler)
My second issue was the Angst Subplot. My problems with Kate came down to issues with her lack of empathy.
My problems with Curran were more serious.(show spoiler)
For all that, there were plenty of aspects to enjoy. My favourite character is most definitely Lord Megobari
Somehow, in my head, I cast him as a rather taller version of Young Cary Elwes--maybe it was the "draping himself across thrones" bit. I kept picturing him, as Bertie Wooster might say, as "laughing down from lazy eyelids and flicking a speck of dust from the irreproachable Mechlin lace at his wrists." Anyway, he has quickly become one of my favourite characters in the whole series. I also very much enjoyed the opening scene with Julie. I know Kate previously adopted her and took the role of surrogate parent, but the past book made this relationship far deeper and closer. For Kate, Julie has become, very literally, "blood of her blood." It was interesting to read Kate's explanation to Julie in that light: basically, Julie has inherited all of Kate's enemies as well as her biological strengths and weaknesses, just as a real child would. As always, the monsters of the world were creative and awesome. Beasts that attempt to run into you and stab you with their breastbones? Awesome. Literally aquatic pirates? Amazing. Overall, despite all of my whining about certain aspects of Kate and Curran's relationship, there were plenty of wonderful aspects to explore in Kate Daniels' increasingly colourful world.
Now knowing that panacea has at least a little basis in previous worldbuilding, call it ~3.2.