Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: The Hour of Dust and Ashes (Charlie Madigan Series)

If you’re reading this blog entry you probably know this by now but I love books. I love monsters. I love reading books about monsters.

However, I do have a few sort of no zones when it comes to what and what I will not read even in urban fantasy and SciFi literature. One-- I will not read anything that focuses primarily on romance with very little action and/or fight scenes. Every now and again I'll see it. The novel that reads like a bad fan fiction. The only reason for the forced, nonsensical and hokey plot is to detract from the fact that the whole thing might as well be filed away under really bad romance.

Two—I generally steer clear of books that focus on magic. I’m not entirely sure why, but if the main focus of the book is on magic it’s safe to say that I won’t get past the sixth chapter. So that being said, I'm strangely drawn to Kelly Gay's Charlie Madigan Series. There are other elements in the books that keep them from being strictly "magic focused" but it's definitely not a small element in this series.

The Hour of Dust and Ashes is the third book in the series so you definitely want to pick up The Better Part of Darkness and The Darkest Edge of Dawn before you read this one.


The books follow Charlie Madigan a divorcee and a single mother who also happens to be a cop working in the Integration Task Force (a special branch of the Police Force that deals with paranormal cases). Charlie and her partner, Hank, are often the front line defense against some of Atlanta’s less than human criminals.

The Hour of Dust and Ashes takes place where the last book left off. Charlie is still trying to help her sister Bryn who has become an Ash addict, an illegal drug from Charbydon (one of Earth’s neighboring planets), and find a way to restore her ex-husband Will’s soul to his body which is now occupied by a Reverent named Rex.

Charlie is trying to deal with the effects of the DNA that she inherited from two other world races to save her daughter’s life and in doing so also unwillingly pits the city of Atlanta into complete darkness. Charlie’s daughter, Emma, has also discovered that she has a number of otherworldly powers, one being that she seems to be able to communicate with their pet hellhound, Brimstone, in ways that neither her mother nor Rex can.

When something starts driving the Ash victims in Atlanta to start committing suicide it’s up to Charlie to find out what before her addicted sister Bryn is next. Ash makes humans the perfect targets for possession and they quickly find out that something is taking over the victims. It’s up to Charlie to make a deal an ancient race of beings and enter Charbydon (which is pretty much the equivalent of Hell) with Rex and Hank to save Bryn.


I think what I really appreciate about this book series in general and Charlie's character is that she's so human. I think that a lot of Gay's readers can relate to her character. Charlie is a single mother and a cop struggling to raise her daughter in a world that's less than perfect. Even though she’s slowly acquiring magic abilities and she’s a cop she isn’t unbelievably strong, however, she is determined.

It’s interesting to see how Charlie handles chaotic situations that not only involve the paranormal but also involve her daughter. More often than not these situations are intertwined but it’s still nice to see a fresh perspective on stereotypical urban fantasy heroine.
I’m a sucker for Rex (more so than Hank, sorry!) and I think it’s great how we got to see how conflicted he was about Will. On one hand he wants to help Charlie and Emma get Will back but that means that of course means that he’d get the book. You definitely get the feeling that he really cares about the Madigan women and it’ll be interesting to see where Gay goes with this plotline in the future.

In defense of Hank, Gay begins to give us more background about his character in this book and he suddenly doesn’t seem like the overly athletic, captain of the football team, jock-ish personality type that I originally thought he was. I’m anxiously awaiting the fourth book where I’m certain that we’ll find out even more about Hank his home planet Elysia.

There is something missing from this book and it took me a while to figure out what it was. Unlike the first and second book, it takes Charlie little time to figure out who they’re up against and they come up with a way to stop the Ash victims from killing themselves. There’s not as much of a mystery element in this book. There’s also a sort of get the feeling that the third book is more focused on expanding and finding out more about Charlie’s abilities as well as tying up the loose ends from the first and second books. There’s less mystery and more of a general sense that everyone’s just trying to figure out what’s going on and how to end it. This is definitely a good thing, at least for me since I was dying to get some answers to burning questions. By the end of the third book Gay introduces a number of new plotlines in the third book that make me anxious for the fourth book.

So... I'm guessing the fact that I'm hooked on this book series sort of disproves my second theory about how much magic use is acceptable in my literature. Go figure.


The Hour of Dust and Ashes is the third book in the Charlie Madigan series. The Better Part of Darkness and The Darkest Edge of Dawn are previous titles in this series.


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