Bored to death by Death’s Daughter

I picked up Amber Benson’s 2009 paperback release, Death’s Daughter, from the library because A)I enjoyed her as Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and B)I loved her Ghosts of Albion books co-authored with Christopher Golden. Unfortunately (and you know it can’t be good when I start a sentence with that), Death’s Daughter disappointed mightily. Just from a story structure and writing standpoint, it became clear that while Benson is a good “idea person,” her execution is off. It seems Golden did much of the heavy lifting in that department during their collaboration.

The story itself is pretty standard and derivative, given the wealth of paranormal/urban fantasy saturating the market these days. Calliope Reaper-Jones, home & garden company employee, gets pulled back into the complex world of Death, Inc when her father, the current Grim Reaper, and his board members are kidnapped. Wackiness ensues.

And maybe I wouldn’t be so turned off to the book if said wackiness didn’t involve borrowing from Hindu mythology. It’s not that I mind the cribbing, per se. Christopher Pike did it for his Last Vampire series and I loved that. It’s how Benson chose to play fast and loose with the characterization of some Hindu figures — primarily Kali. She’s described as a temperamental sari-wearing young woman who constantly calls Calliope “White Girl.” Um…really? No. 1. If Benson had chosen to have her use Hindi and dub Callie “memsahib” or “sahiba” it would’ve made much more sense. No. 2. Kali isn’t exactly your bitchtastic high school mean girl. Out of all the goddesses in the pantheon, she’s the least likely to fit into that slot that Benson placed her in. It really rubbed me the wrong way. And tangentially, why would you pick a goddess whose name is so close to your heroine’s? 

The book just didn’t “get there.” There’s too much packed into too few pages, not enough actual character development —  Callie is so vapid I couldn’t even empathize with her — and what there is of a love interest plot was very convoluted. Of course, it was also the clear set-up for a series. Yep, that’s right, we get more. If Kali returns in the sequel, remind me not to have alcohol handy, because I’d be too tempted to do shots every time she calls Callie something other than her name.

Thankfully, I cleansed my literary palate by reading Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta. Now that was a worthwhile read, with a fully developed heroine!

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