BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Death and Relaxation


Title: Death and Relaxation (Ordinary Magic Book One)

Publisher: Oddhouse Press

Author: Devon Monk

Pages: 324 pp

Price: $12.99 (paperback)/$4.99 (ebook)

Growing up here, I had played spin the bottle with werewolves, crabbed the bay with Poseidon, and smoked my first (and last) cigar with Shiva.

Ordinary, Oregon is neutral territory, a place which welcomes Gods and Goddesses and spirits and creatures of every pantheon. To maintain the peace, the Gods abdicate their powers for the duration of their stay, leaving them completely and utterly mortal. Most Deities enjoy the vacation: they take in the sights, partake in the annual Rhubarb Rally, and then move on; others stay for weeks or months or even years. And, tragically, every now and then, a God dies while in mortal form. When that happens, it falls on the Reed family to find someone to take up the mantle of godhood. So when Heim (the mortal incarnation of the God Heimdall) is murdered, Police Chief Delaney Reed finds herself not only hunting a killer, but also hunting for a new God -- before the power she carries breaks free and chaos ensues ....

I really was not sure what to expect when I downloaded Death and Relaxation. I love Monk's Age of Steam books, but I just couldn't get into the Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series. Still, the idea of Gods vacationing as mortals, hiding in plain sight, intrigued me. I decided to give it a shot, and I am glad that I did.

Overall, Death and Relaxation is a fun, light read, with a good balance of humor (Thanatos in a bright Hawaiian shirt sipping a fruity pink drink) and heavy emotion (Delaney asking Thanatos how and why her father died). In terms of tone, it feels like a mash-up of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warehouse 13, and The X-Files.

The characters are terrific. I love the relationship between Delaney and her two younger sisters, Myra and Jean. They both have unusual abilities, as well: while Delaney acts as the guardian/bridge for wild God powers, Myra is always exactly where she needs to be when she needs to be there, and Jean "doom forecasts" right before something bad happens. They argue, get on each other's nerves, support one another, yell at ex-boyfriends for one another, and are completely loyal to each other. 

They are also completely loyal to Ordinary and its citizens, mortal and preternatural alike. In addition to vacationing Gods, Ordinary is also home to a small community of vampires (lead by Old Rossi) and werewolves (led by Granny Wolfe). And also gill-men like Chris Lagon (whose scales look like fancy tattoo work) and valkyries like Bertie (happily in charge of the Rhubarb Rally). Vacationing Gods who stay more than a few days are required to become productive members of society; and, since this is a vacation, most choose professions that are completely different from their divine offices (Heimdall was a fisherman, Hera runs a bar called Mom's, Odin does chainsaw carvings).

Aside from the relationship between the Delaney sisters, I particularly liked two other elements of the story: Ryder Bailey, and Monk's treatment of the Gods. Ryder is Delaney's long-time crush, the boy she has been secretly and wholly in love with since she was a little girl. He left town for eight long years, and Delaney moved on. Or, she told herself she had, until he suddenly reappeared, a talented and accomplished architect -- or is he? Because there is something odd going on with Ryder, and the mystery of his true motivations carries through the whole series.

The second element that I particularly enjoyed was Monk's treatment of the Gods; odd, I suppose, given that she killed off Heimdall and he is not the first God to have died in her fictional universe (the Reeds have acted as bridges for Divine power for untold centuries). But, Monk does not play fast and loose with the source material. nor does she look down on the Gods or treat them like two dimensional caricatures. Zeus is urbane and sophisticated, Hera is dignified and compassionate, and while Raven may be a trickster he has no interest in destroying Ordinary or the rest of the world. And while it is never explicitly stated, I got the distinct impression that some of these Deities -- Odin, Hera, Frigg, Zeus, and others -- are the originals, thousands and thousands of years old.  

Death and Relaxation is the first in a projected three book series. The second, Devils and Details, is already available, while Gods and Ends will likely be out by the end of the year.

Recommended to fans of Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series, Jolene Dawe's Spirit Touched, Juli D Revezzo, Tina Gower, Annie Bellet's Twenty-Sided Sorceress books, JL Bryan, CI Black's The Medusa Files, and Deborah Blake's Veiled Magic.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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