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Saturday, November 6, 2010

review: Poison Sleep by T.A. Pratt

Marla Mason #2:
Poison Sleep
by T.A. Pratt

The bad girl of the magical underworld is back and badder than ever.
Someone wants Marla Mason dead. Usually that’s not news. As chief sorcerer of Felport, someone always wants her dead. But this time she’s the target of a renegade assassin who specializes in killing his victims over days, months, or even years. Not to mention a mysterious knife-wielding killer in black who pops up in the most unexpected places. To make matters worse, an inmate has broken out of the Blackwing Institute for criminally insane sorcerers—a troubled psychic who can literally reweave the fabric of reality to match her own traumatic past.
With her wisecracking partner Rondeau reluctantly in tow, Marla teams up with a “love-talker” whose dangerous erotic spells not even she can resist. Together they’re searching the rapidly transforming streets of Felport for a woman who’s become the Typhoid Mary of nightmares, infecting everything — and everyone — she touches with a chaos worse than death itself.

adult fiction ; urban fantasy { genre
PG-13 for violence and sexual content (including past rape) { rating
March 25, 2008 { first released
Spectra paperback (321 pages) { review edition
bought at full price { acquisition ; ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I own the first three novels to this series, and I liked the first book.

First Lines
The Bentley squealed to a halt at the top of the icy horseshoe driveway before the looming brick face of the Blackwing Institute. Marla leapt from the passenger side and rushed for the front doors, purple-and-white cloak billowing after her in the gusty winter wind.

Overall Rating

Marla is just as snipey and down-to-business as the first book, but we see a slightly less-prickly side of her as she gets hilariously smitten over love-talker Joshua, and employs a dying man off the street. The themes dealt with in this book are radically different from the myths and prophecies in the first, focusing instead around the various deviations of sexual attraction and power (though I wouldn't call this "steamy" lol). The twists and bends of character betrayals and deaths keep the story interesting, even if there's less action-packed violence.

review posted to goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing


Maybe it's because I've seen them played out in many books before, but themes about power dynamics through sexual acts like rape and "seduction" (as the lover-talker is a metaphor for, I'm sure) wasn't as refreshing a topic as, say, the Apocalyptic Killer Frogs From The Amazon in book one. With the rape victim in this book, Genevieve, there's the typical journey from traumatized and infantilized girl whose fear gives power to her attacker (in this case, manifesting him as an unstoppable evil jerk in her powerful magic-nightmares) to the woman who is able to conquer her fears and banish the shadow of her attacker. In the secondary plot, with the love-talker and Marla, there's some gratuitous exposition on how someone who is born a "seducer" (wherein everyone falls in love with him at first sight and becomes suggestible to his every request) can ever have his own love reciprocated in a "real" way. There's also some exploration on the "moralities" of using seduction as power and such.
Both themes are interesting on their own, but they don't really bring anything new to the table with their resolutions and I felt a little let down at how predictable some of the plotlines were. However, there were a few betrayals and changes in alliance that I didn't see coming, so the overall story was kept interesting enough.


Marla was almost adorable in this book when she falls under the "spell" of love-talker Joshua. She's an obvious top, so she keeps thinking about eating him up with icecream and keeping him as a pet (or something) and completely losing focus on the mission (which is rare, for Marla).
Then there's the introduction of the slow assassins - a group of hired killers who take "contracts" that span from weeks to years and keep their victims guessing when they will die. We get a few chapters from the POV of Zealand, the assassin sent after Marla, and while I'm a bit confused as to his motivations later in the novel, he does bring a new voice to the action.
We also get introduced to another character named Ted, a hobo off the streets that Marla picked as her new secretary (because she hates and is bad at paperwork). He really grew on me, just as a character who's seen the worst and makes most of what he's given. I personally wanted him to stay longer than he actually did, because he seemed to have a good effect on Marla - she cured him of his terminal disease and gave him a new life, though it's more because she can trust strangers better than people she knows, but I think she grew to like him too.
I was a bit sad Rondeau didn't get to do much this time around, just mostly fixing up toilet demons and such...I did like that the "villain" was as malicious as he was desperate, and how Marla really had to just sit down and reconsider diplomacy over her usual ways of Crush Anything in My Path.


I'm still having some issues with the juvenile swearing and sometimes overabused sarcasm (and this is coming from someone who loves snark), but overall the writing is pretty good. I love how the landscape of Genevieve's bubble world is described, and by extension, the imagery for Marla's city, Felport.


And here's where I'm simultaneously pleased and exasperated by the quickness in which Mr Pratt kills off my most beloved characters. On the one hand, it is unexpected and makes great impact. On the other hand, I was really looking forward to the cannibal technomage to be a recurring character in book one, and now my new favourite minor characters in book two have also been ushered out of the picture one way or another. That is not to say it's a bad ending; Marla did grow as a character and we get a resolution for Genevieve. Either way, even if I can't look forward to seeing some of these characters again, I'm still quite excited to see what new characters are introduced and sacrificed in cold blood in the next book.

Marla Mason Series
#1 Blood Engines (2007)
#2 Poison Sleep (2008)
#3 Dead Reign (2008)
#4 Spell Games (2009)

Reading Challenges
A to Z Challenge (2010) → P for Poison
TwentyTen Challenge (2010) → Win! Win!
What's in a Name? Challenge (2010) → Food (Poison)
2nd in Series Challenge (2010) → Marla Mason Series
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miss cindy :) said...

I like your little rating system! This one sounds interesting, but maybe not for me. Great review :)