Review: The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

February 8, 2015 Reviews 2 Comments

Review: The Grendel Affair by Lisa ShearinThe Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin
Series: SPI Files #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Ace on 31 December 2013
Pages: 304
Reading Challenges: 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
One StarOne StarOne Star


Makenna aka Mac left her life as a seedy tabloid journalist behind to become North America’s only seer for SPI (a kind of Men in Black for supernatural creatures instead of aliens). A few gruesome murders sets the team off after a Grendel who intends to reveal the existence of supernatural creatures at Times Square’s New Years Eve celebrations.

Life isn’t that bad for Mac, apart from her occasional inability to dress herself, because the bullpen where she works is often filled with cookies and she gets to use her gift rather than try to hide it. One aspect that really got to me though was SPI’s unwillingness to train Mac. It wasn’t like a sledgehammer to the back of the head pain which happened once and I could move on but more like a dull throbbing one caused by an impending migraine. SPI didn’t want to train Mac even though seers are 1) incredibly rare and 2) baddies know seers are often the only thing standing between them and the good life. Her partner eventually promises to train her so hopefully this plot device won’t show up in future novels.

Watching Mac stumble, trip and fall through the book as she tried to protect herself or be useful was painful. What made it worse was that the men were universally strong, skilled, suitably bad-ass and content to infantalize her, so she was unable to cope without them. The feminist in me wanted to throw the book down in disgust but I was ultimately glad I persevered. Mac definitely starts growing as a character and becomes a worthy part of the team rather than a liability. That tipped the scales for me and I ended up enjoying the book despite the protagonist instead of loving it because of them.

The bits I liked however, I liked an awful lot. Shearin gets points for her world building and lots of bonus points for centering her novel around Grendels of Beowulf fame. Things didn’t go so well for that Grendel or his mummy even though they were ridiculously strong and able to heal quickly. The SPI team doesn’t have a superhero on speed-dial so dealing with the original Grendel’s descendants is a wee bit more difficult. The pace is initially slow but snowballs once the team realises what they are dealing with and barely lets up. I enjoyed the action scenes but the ones when Mac’s dragon boss entered the fray were the most exciting.

Although the cover suggests that an urban fantasy noir style tale with Mac treading the mean streets of New York with her sidekick Ian and trusty firearm lurks within, it doesn’t. If you like lighter urban fantasy novels however, then this just might fit the bill.

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