We’re Supernatural Protection & Investigations, known as SPI. Things that go bump in the night, the monsters you thought didn’t exist? We battle them and keep you safe. But some supernatural baddies are just too big to contain, even for us. When I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them out.Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel - yes, that Grendel - shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him - and the organization behind him - by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.
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Being a rabid Ilona Andrews fan I preordered Night Shift the moment it hit preorder status. I adore anthologies, and with both Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews as listed authors, I was so excited to receive it. There were two other authors in the anthology, Lisa Shearin and Milla Vane, neither of which I had read before.
And this is why authors are brilliant to be involved in Anthologies, especially when they can be involved in them with more well-known authors. I may never have heard of Lisa Shearin before, but after reading Lucky Charms I knew I had to read more of her work.
"It was four in the morning. I was in a stolen bakery delivery truck that’d been nearly totaled by three gargoyles. In the truck with me were two hung-over elves, a pair of stoned leprechauns with the munchies, a naked Russian werewolf, and a hot partner, who was actually more of a bodyguard, in a race against a goblin dark mage to retrieve a leprechaun prince with a tracking chip embedded in his left ass cheek. "
Six hours earlier: “How the hell did you lose five horny leprechauns in a strip club?”
What is NOT to love?!?! I immediately went out and purchased The Grendel Affair on Audible. Hey, it is narrated by Johanna Parker. The main character, Makenna Fraser, is a good-ole’ Southern girl, and Johanna’s southern voice is perfect for the character. Having first listened to Johanna in the Sookie Stackhouse Series, I follow her on Audible and give serious consideration to any books she narrates, just as I do with any books that are narrated by Renée Raudman, Khristine Hvam, Will Patton or . . . well, I have a list of narrators that I follow!
Makenna Fraser features in The Grendel Affair as well. Lucky Charms, the story in Night Shift seems to be a prologue to the SPI Files series. The second in the series, The Dragon Conspiracy (SPI Files), comes out January 27th, and I will be waiting impatiently for the Audible edition! I love the mythology of the SPI Files. A hidden paramilitary police force policing the supernaturals, which of course the human population knows nothing of. Yes, that concept has been used before, but when well done, it is the underpinning of many a truly marvelous story. In New York, just before New Year’s Eve, Grendels have been released, and are picking off both supernats and humans – leading up to what their leader intends to be a Times Square slaughter, ripping the blinders off the human population in a gory paean to carnage and chaos. It is up to the SPI to stop the Grendels (yes, just like in Beowulf) before the world is turned into a mythological nightmare. (Really, people – do you truly not understand that humans have a wee bit of an arsenal built up? Like, enough to destroy the world several times over? Sort of hard to fight a Predator missile with a Predator’s claws . . . Ah, the dreams of glory of a psychopath with a God complex.)
Makenna is a great heroine, mostly for the fact that she really isn’t a ‘heroine’ at all. Rather, she is a newspaper reporter who found herself thrust into the SPI because she is a seer – she can see underneath the veils that supernats wear to make them appear human. And her particular skill-set may be the only thing that can save the world from the planned chaos and slaughter. She is no Mary Sue – she makes mistakes, grave ones, but fumbles along the best she can under extremely difficult situations, helping and being helped by her new colleagues. Terror, sadness and guilt all hound her, but there are truly funny moments as well.
Lisa Shearin has another series, starring Raine Benares, which begins with Magic Lost, Trouble Found: Raine Benares, Book 1. One of my Audible credits will be grabbing this one soon!
I purchased the books listing in this review. All thoughts are my own. If you enjoy my reviews, please “Like” them on Amazon.com and/or Audible.com. Thanks you!
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Main Characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Makenna Fraser is a likable character. She’s not perfect, she’s not superior, she’s just your average gal adjusting to a new job. She has funny quirks, only one special skill — the ability to see through glamours and veils — and is both afraid and brave. I love the fact that a smear of powdered sugar from eating too many cookies is what helps establish her credibility and that her contribution to the monster-fighting team is to shoot paintballs. The story is told first-person through Makenna, so the reader gets to know her very well throughout the book and is easily able to identify with her and invest in her success.
Other Characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Ian Byrne, Makenna’s partner/bodyguard, is a professional agent, in contrast to Makenna, and does what he can to keep her safe. At first, I thought Ian was going to be an overly-protective male for the whole book, but that wasn’t the case. Ian is protective, having lost a partner in the past, but he recognizes that he can protect Makenna only so much and that she needs to be able to protect herself. Luckily, Ian has a sense of humor and is able to accept Makenna for who she is, quirks and all. I think the two make a good pair. I really enjoy the rest of the supporting cast as well: Ollie, the self-centered merchant of all things spooky; Yasha, the Russian werewolf driver; Kenji, the Japanese half-elf techie; Vivienne Sagadraco, British dragon and founder of SPI; and Rolf Haagen, the crazy Scandinavian with the prosthetic arm. Ms. Shearin certainly has embraced diversity in her characters as far as nationality AND species.
World: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ It seems all the monsters exist in Makenna’s world — dragons, elves, goblins, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, leprechauns, grendels, magicians, witches, dopplegangers, and more. One ancient dragon, Vivienne Sagadraco, has created SPI — Supernatural Protection and Investigations — to protect the humans and good supernaturals from the bad supernaturals and keep the magical world under wraps. SPI operates like a private FBI and police force, employing both humans and supernaturals toward the cause.
Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ In this first adventure, a pair of grendels are loose in NYC, ready to rampage through Times Square on New Year’s Eve in order to bring the supernaturals out of the closet and into the power some creatures believe they deserve. Makenna, Ian, Yasha, Rolf, and the others are tasked to bring down the grendels without revealing them to the world. Mayhem ensues. For the most part, I like the story. The time the group spends hunting the grendels in the tunnels under the city seems to drag on a bit; but, I really love the scenes in the cemetery and in the crypt under the cemetery.
During the story, Ms. Shearin references Makenna’s first day on the job guarding a bachelor party of leprechauns. This sounds like a hilarious story that can now be found in an anthology called Night Shift. Makenna spends a fair amount of time introducing herself to us in the beginning of the book, where she references her hometown of Weird Sisters, North Carolina — a town that attracts the weird and wonderful. With as much time as was spent on it, I was expecting to either find a short story about Weird Sisters, or to have it become important in The Grendel Affair; but neither is true as far as I can tell. I’d love to see a story or two about Weird Sisters; it sounds like there are generations worth of stories there to tell. The other story I would like to see is how Ian lost his first partner. We know it had something to do with “the ghoul” character that Makenna encounters both at the beginning and the end of the book, and we know it had a big impact on Ian. But we know only what Ian has told Makenna about the incident and we don’t know much about this “ghoul” character at all. I think there is plenty of fodder there for more interesting stories.
Narrator: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Johanna Parker, who also narrates the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, is the voice of Mackenna Fraser and company. Being a fan of Sookie in audio, this did a couple of things for me. First, it gave me instant affinity for the story since I liked Sookie and Johanna as her voice. Second, it made me picture Mackenna as Sookie for a while. I can separate them in my head now, but I don’t think associating the two characters was actually a bad thing. They are fairly similar; both gals are blonde, Southern, and fairly normal except for one small talent — the ability to sense something others can’t. Neither have any special abilities that make them physically or mentally superior, and they both have faults, make mistakes, and have adorable quirks. It was a smart choice to have Ms. Parker read the SPI novels as it will lead some listeners to associate Ms. Shearin’s world with Ms. Harris’, and who wouldn’t want to be associated with such a success?
Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Grendel Affair is a fun adventure with likable characters and just the right amount of humor. I think I enjoyed listening to it more than I did reading it, particularly because I already have a “relationship” with Johanna Parker. The story is more than fluff, but not a super serious or gritty adventure — it’s a “popcorn flick” of a book that makes for an entertaining few hours.