Jan 13, 2012

Posted by in Reviews | 9 Comments

Review: The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay (Charlie Madigan #1)

Urban Fantasy
November 24 2009
Mass Market Paperback
416 pages
Pocket Books

Kick Ass Chick – Charlie Madigan

From Goodreads –
Atlanta: it’s the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil….

Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She’s recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.’s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim — but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?


The Better Part of Darkness is the first book in Kelly Gay’s Charlie Madigan series.  I have many friends who fan-girl *squee* when this series is mentioned and I can now totally understand why.  The world and the characters are phenomenal and Kelly’s writing voice is very strong.

Let me try to explain the world that Kelly has created to you.  Earth is Earth, but it is now accepting immigrants…from outer space.  I think I know where your mind is headed right about now because that is where mine went when I first heard that this book had aliens in it.  But let me assure you that these beings look like humans and act like them too.  There are no strange goo-slinging three-headed orange and purple guys.  Some of these beings have special powers but they are regulated here on Earth so they don’t get to use them very much.  I am not a fan of crazy-alien books but I liked what Kelly did in this one.  I also like the idea that the two planets that these aliens come from are complete opposites one from the other.  One is all good and the other is all bad.  There was a time when humanity actually believed these places were Heaven and Hell just by what was interpreted in the Bible but in reality, the scripts tell of interactions between humans and beings from these two planets.  No, this is not a religious book.  At all.  So don’t fret.  The only mention of it really is what I just told you.  But I like the idea of it all.  It really sets the mood well seeing that you have humans who are not only questioning the very base of faith and what is real or not, but also dealing with new beings coming to live alongside them.  This is not new in Kelly’s books – aliens have been immigrating for a while now – but thinking of what people had to deal with when all this started gives you a good idea of where people’s minds are today and how Earth as we know it transforms in Kelly’s books.

Now about the characters.  I’ll start with Charlie since this is her series after all.  Charlie was such a well written character!  All the details just make her so real.  And even though she was killed and brought back (no she’s not a zombie) and now has extra and unexplained powers of sorts, she’s still completely relatable.  I was really impressed by her.  She’s a cop in a department that deals with human/alien relations so she seriously kick ass too.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to shake her once in a while.  She is dealing with so much in this book (crazy nightmares, unexplained abilities, being framed for things she didn’t do, ect…) yet she won’t talk to anyone about it all.  She wants them to still see her as ‘normal’ and not treat her any differently than they do now so she’s afraid to say anything…but she’s messed up and getting worst!  She needs help but she won’t get it.  That caused me to wonder a bit about her.  But other than that, I loved her character.  She’s sarcastic and smart too and I love characters like that.

Really, all the characters in this book are great.  I especially like Emma, Charlie’s daughter, and Hank, Charlie’s partner.  Hank is a Siren from Elysia, a hoot and super yummy.  But he also has such heart and depth.  I really really liked him.  I also loved Aaron and Bryn.  Very much.  And eventually we meet Rex.  No, I am not particularly fond of how we meet him (because it’s quite sad) but he ends up being a bit of the comic relief in the book.  I feel he will be fun to read in future installments too.

The story is quite intricate (as most UF stories are) and I find I’m having trouble talking about the plot without spilling details I shouldn’t…so I’m not even going to try to give details.  I’ll just say that the story revolves around a super addictive drug and no one knows where it comes from or why it reacts in people the way it does.  Big mystery and really neat to see how all the questions come together-ish.  I found it odd how there was no real explanation as to why this super drug showed up when it did (even once the culprits for bringing it to the masses was discovered) – and I still wondered about it even once I reached the end of the book.  But instead of letting that rub me the wrong way, I will simply assume it’s just another slightly open subject that will be explained in a later book.

And the last line of the book is amazing!  Just perfect for this story.

If you like Urban Fantasy books with light fluffy unicorns and mostly happy endings at the end of each installment, do not mistake this book with one of those.  The Better Part of Darkness is a true gritty UF book.  It’s great if you like that sort of read.  I would definitely recommend this one and I am planning on continuing on with the series.

4 stars

Giggle worthy quote

“He shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets.  He had such an easy, confident swagger.  ‘Well, seeing as you’ve had the day from hell…You sure you’re up for this?  I mean, I don’t want you poofing out on my in the middle of things.’

‘It’s pooping.’  His eyes went wide.  Okay, that didn’t sound right.  ‘The phrase, it’s called pooping out, not –‘  The corner of his mouth started twitching, and his eyes glistened.  I smacked his arm.  ‘Damn it, Hank!’  His laugh filled the space around us, rich and warm and slightly contagious.  But I refused to even grant him a smile.

‘I can’t believe you fell for that one,’ he said between bursts of laughter.

‘You’re so juvenile.’”

Books in the Charlie Madigan series –
The Better Part of Darkness
The Darkest Edge of Dawn
The Hour of Dust and Ashes
Shadows Before the Sun (July 2012)

  1. Oh no…another series I must read. I’m drowning in books that I have yet to read, but somehow I can’t stop finding more.

  2. Great review Julie! It sounds like a great one and I can’t wait to see what you think of the next installments. You know that a book is really good and well woven when you can’t even talk about the plot because you know you’ll give away things you shouldn’t. The characters sound fun and very unique and I’ll definitely be placing this on my TBR list. 😀

  3. O I love this! I want to read this! Where is my wishlist?

  4. It was already on my wishlist with a warning, this series has major cliffhangers! So, I will collect them at my leasure, and start reading when the series is done 🙂

  5. This sound like something I would really like. I’m adding it to my ever growing TBR. As always great review and evil you for making me add more books.

  6. It seems like I have been reading more YA than anything else for a while now and I am really starting to miss UF! Especially something dark and gritty! I will have to add this to my list because it sounds like exactly what I need!

  7. Traci – I know what you mean. It’s amazing how the tbr pile seems like it knows no limits. lol

    Deanna – I like that too. Not the best thing when trying to write a review but very good for reading. 😉

    Aurian – This one didn’t really have a cliffhanger. Yes, you want to know what happens next, but it didn’t leave you dangling…thank goodness. lol

    BookaholicCat – I think you would like it too. 😉

    Shannon – Sometimes you just need something raw and gritty. And yes, UF is an awesome genre. 🙂

  8. I just loved this series so I’m glad you enjoyed it too! You’ll see the series even improve with the books and the third was just awesome. Can’t wait to read the fourth now. Great review I agree with you.

  9. I really liked this one and book 2 😀 Oh and book 3, lol. I can’t wait for book 4. I like the dark and gritty world she lives in

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