The next author I’m going to review is Tanya Huff, a Canadian (yay, Canada!) fantasy and science fiction author. She doesn’t really have website, but she does have a Wikipedia entry and a LiveJournal site.
Her biggest success so far has probably been her ‘Victory’ Nelson series. This is a series of five books and several short stories featuring a tough, competitive, abrasive and very, very good former detective. Victoria was a Toronto Police Service Detective until retinitis pigmentosa (tunnel vision) forced her out of the service. As per normal for former-cops in fiction stories, she sets up as a private detective, unwilling and unable to let her disability stop her from doing what she loves.
What’s not so normal is the type of crimes she ends up investigating. In the first one, Blood Price, she gets hired to investigate the bizarre and brutal death of a young college girl. Turns out an amateur sorcerer, tired of rejection, has summoned up a lesser demon and has him running around tearing up people who’ve pissed him off. This is also where we get to meet the rest of Vickie’s ‘crew’. Her former partner and lover, Mike Celucci, is still with the Toronto PD. Even though he was brought up Italian Catholic, his world view is very much one of science and procedures. Which doesn’t help him much when Vicky meets her other partner-to-be, Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry VIII and a vampire. He’s also a pot-boiler romance author and Mike has a hard time deciding which aspect of Henry he has the most trouble with. A third person is brought in to rescue Henry. Tony Foster is a former child prostitute-former addict whom Vicky has and does use as a source of street information. He plays only a minor role in the Blood novels.
Through the series, Ms. Huff investigates religion and werewolf killing (Blood Trail), police corruption, mummies and evil ancient Egyptian gods (Blood Lines), and illegal human experimentation and zombies (Blood Pact). The last book in the series (Blood Debt) deals with the black-market in organs and ghosts. By this time Henry and Tony have moved to Vancouver for reasons that would be a total spoiler to tell you, so I won’t.
There’s also a collection of short stories called Blood Bank that’s only available as part of a compilation. The stories expand on Henry’s history or Vicky’s present. They are good to read, fun and serious by turn, but not essential to the rest of the series.
Some people won’t like Victory Nelson. As said before she’s extremely competitive and has a hard time letting the people closest to her be better than her–or even as good as her, in anything. She was a good detective and she is not happy at having to give it up so she often takes it out on her friends. I can admire her, but I couldn’t live with her.
This story morphs into my absolutely favourite Tanya Huff series, Tony Foster’s ‘Smoke and...’ Tony has separated himself a little from Henry, trying to create his own life as a future director. Vancouver is the perfect place for this with all the filming going on there. He goes to film school and gets a job as the Third Assistant Director on a straight-to-syndication series that features a never-was actor as a vampire detective and a tall, young hottie-with-a-future as his sidekick. Tony, having lived with the real thing, is rather appalled at misconceptions surrounding vampires. Henry, as a real vampire, is actually relieved.
The episodes are filmed on the slimmest of budgets and one of the best characters in the novels is the studio’s owner and the show’s executive producer; a huge former-linebacker who can’t hear words like ‘over-budget’, ‘added expense’, or ‘cheap piece-of-crap’ without becoming very, very scary.
It helps the bottom-line that the production's special effects wizard really is a wizard. She escaped from another planet/alternate dimension to earth when the Shadow Lord took hers over. Of course, the evil sorcerer follows her to earth and decides he likes it. Tony fights back, because he can’t help it, and between him and Henry and the Wizard, they do manage to defeat the Shadow Lord. It helps that Tony’s got a natural talent for wizardry... not that he wants to work that hard at sorcery when he’d much rather be a DIRECTOR!
Unfortunately, they film an episode in a house possessed by poltergeists and an evil entity that sucks energy from violent death and locks them inside for the night hoping to feed off them. Ever since the house was built it has had a history of ‘unfortunate events’ which replay endlessly, revealing some unexpected side-effects from the events of the first book. This is perhaps the goriest of the series, but it’s offset by letting Tony kiss the object-of-his-lust for the first time, and being forced to reveal his 'ultra-special-awesome powers' to his workmates.
The third and final book is Smoke and Ashes. Tony, now being utilized routinely on the set to solve ‘little problems’ with his wizard powers, runs into an immortal demongate who works as a stuntwoman. As much as he doesn’t want it to, meeting her becomes another round of ‘save the world’. Bad puns abound, a goth coffee shop gets trashed, Tony gets his own police contact, an RCMP officer who’s got an ‘itch’ about the line of BS he's been fed since the first book, and he gets his own stalker-reporter who wants to reveal ‘the truth’ in the best X-Files tradition-which only makes sense, after all the X-Files was filmed in Vancouver.
There are several things I enjoy about these books, both the Blood and the Smoke novels. They are filled with sly humour and pop references that anyone can enjoy. I used to live in Vancouver so I can ID where scenes are set, but most of all I enjoyed the utter humanness of the characters. Whether wizard or vampire, producer or actor, these people are real. No matter how bizarre the situation, they react true to themselves, looking at events through their eyes, rather than the author’s.
Something else that’s impressive is that she doesn’t repeat these characters in any of her other series, and none of the other series’ characters are featured in these ones. It’s not a case of changing the name and location but keeping the people the same. These are new and unique, and wonderful to read because of it.
I hope you look her up and let me know what you think.