I cannot believe I spent money on this book. Oh, it sounded good. A novel centered around a writer of fantasy novels, who uses her secret life as a demon fighting warrior as inspiration for her books, and her cigar-smoking, fast-talking imp companion. Intriguing, right? Well, it is an intruging premise, let down by a lackluster main character, a meandering, I would even say nonexistent plot, and a messy, jumbled, confused, mish-mashed storyline. Honestly, I've read some bad books in my lifetime, but I think this is the worst, mainly because it does have so much promise. The other bad books were let down by badly drawn characters, poorly told stories, or just plain awful writing. This is let down by all three.
First, we have the lead character, Tess Noncoire, the fantasy writer who's also a member of the secret society known as the Sisterhood of the Celestial Blade Warriors. The sisterhood is charged with protecting "nodes," portals which lead from our world into the world of demons. After succumbing to a near-fatal illness, an illness specifically designed to bring a warrior's power to life and allow her to bond with an imp companion, Tess goes through a period of intense training to prepare her to fight demons. Essentially she becomes a fighting machine. At least, that's what we're told...over and over again. We have to take the author's word for it, though, because Tess doesn't do much fighting. On the two occasions she does fight, her "prowess" mainly consists of ineffectively thwacking the threat with her weapon with the attitude of "Ooh, go away you nasty thing!" Wow, that's some warrior you've got there Ms. Frost. Other than the fact that we're told she's a warrior and a fantasy writer, we don't know much else about Tess. She's basically a cipher. Oh, she's still suicidally mournful over the death of her husband (I'll come to him in a moment). That's it.
Second, we have the story. Or perhaps I should say stories as the author included several, none of which really went anywhere or had anything to say or even seemed to have anything to do with one another. Story #1: Tess is on tour to promote her latest book...sort of. Instead of making the rounds of local bookstores, Tess seems to limit her trips to sci-fi fan conventions. Yet, despite the number of cons she visits (and trust me, we're subjected to detailed descriptions of multiple conventions), maybe at only one of them does she promote her book. The rest are visited just for fun. Do promoting authors really have that much free time? Not from what I've been given to understand. Granted, you can sense the author's love of fan conventions, with their close-knit camaraderie, costumes, and filking (sci-fi riffs on folk songs), but do we need such lovingly detailed descriptions for every con, or, for that matter, do we need the character to endlessly go to con after con? Unless you're setting the entire book in one (notice I stress one) con, no, we don't, so leave off already. ** spoiler alert ** Story #2: A big dog, almost demonic-looking, is attacking Native American girls in the Northwest, eventually capturing one, Cynthia, who Tess "rescued" during a fight with the dog at the beginning of the book. We later learn that this dog and Cynthia, whom the dog is actually protecting, are part of a myth involving the weaving of a blanket and the end of the world. Once Cynthia is taken by the dog, Tess searches for her (in between cons) and this is where this particular storyline gets stupid (-er): When Tess hears of a sighting of Cynthia and the dog not far from Tess's hotel, does she immediately go out and look for the girl? No, of course not, why would she? Instead she eats her steak dinner which has just arrived. WTF? If you're so concerned about this girl, wouldn't you go out to look for her if she was seen close by not more than ten minutes ago? The search may be fruitless, but I sure as hell would. Story #3: Donovan Estevez, who gets Tess's loins all hot and bothered, seeks her out and beds her, making her heart go pitty-pat and her concerns about him fly out the window with every flash of his sparkling white smile. Tess's imp, Scrap, warns her that he's bad and should be avoided. Now, she's supposed to trust this imp with her life in battle, but she can't believe him when he says Donovan smells bad and doesn't seem human? Plus there's the fact that Donovan is jealous of Tess's husband, who died three years ago, after a liquor-fueled whirlwind weeks-long romance and quickie wedding. Oh, and said husband, Dill, is now haunting Tess, telling her to get rid of Scrap so Dill can be her companion and come back to her. Huh? After that, things start to break down (even more). We get other ghosts who haunt Tess's life, a magical haircomb which is bleaching Tess's hair, an Indian casino which becomes the scene of an armed standoff as the tribe which owns the land declares its independence from the U.S.A., Tess's interfering and rude family, her former in-laws who have declared her marriage to Dill null. Oh, and Sasquatches, which are actually demons guarding the chatroom which leads to the demon realms. Is your head spinning yet? I know mine was. And I'm sure I'm leaving some things out as it's possible Frost may have introduced a few other plot points in later chapters. I don't know because I'm weak. I caved, I tapped out, I cried "Uncle!" and stopped reading at page 257. I just couldn't take the ridiculousness anymore.
Which is where the bad writing comes in. This is such a jumbled mess of a book, with no discernible plot, no real character development, no cohesion, no sense of moving from point A to point B. Reading it was like being a hamster on a treadmill: Lots of moving, moving, moving, without actually getting anywhere. I still, scout's honor, couldn't tell you what the book is actually about.
I went into this with an open mind. After about fifty pages, I thought, "Well, not much is going on, but it's a interesting premise. I'll probably end up giving this 3 stars." After about 150 pages, I thought, "What exactly am I reading? I mean, it's not bad, it's just not that good. Probably 2 stars." I've come away with the opinion that one star is too good for Hounding the Moon. No, wait, the cover art is pretty, so I guess the star can be for that.