Saints Astray

by Jacqueline Carey

Cover image

Series: Santa Olivia #2
Publisher: Grand Central
Copyright: November 2011
ISBN: 0-446-57142-3
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 356

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Saints Astray is a direct sequel to Santa Olivia. Unless you have already read and loved Santa Olivia, there is absolutely no point in reading this book.

This book didn't need to be written, and that's its biggest issue. While not everything was resolved at the end of Santa Olivia, the primary challenge for the protagonists had reached a natural conclusion. The potential sequel plans, such as they were, were left open and vague. What one quickly discovers in Saints Astray is that Carey didn't really have another book of plot left in the story. There are about 100 pages, mostly at the end of Saints Astray, that wrap up significant loose ends; the rest of the book is... well.

One of the common motivations for writing fanfic is that one loves the characters of a story and just wants to see more. More of their interactions, more of their time together, stretching out the story and filling in the unseen gaps. This is a fine endeavor, and can be a great way to wring further enjoyment from a story, but there's a reason why those interludes and extensions aren't usually published: the imagination often does a better job with them than someone else's extrapolations, and the elaborations can become boring and pointless. Most of Saints Astray feels like fanfic Carey is writing about her own characters. They go on further adventures in the world following the events of Santa Olivia, but there doesn't seem to be much point, other than letting us see more of them.

This, as you might imagine, has sparked some negative reviews and widespread disappointment. If you read Santa Olivia and thought it was brilliant, don't eagerly rush out to grab this one hoping for similar brilliance. That's not what you'll get; it's a continuation of the characters, but it doesn't have the urgency, the narrative drive, or the arc of development. There is some character growth, but not in Loup. How she is at the end of Santa Olivia is pretty much how she is at the end of Saints Astray. The story is also, particularly compared to Santa Olivia, relentlessly happy; it's very hard to believe that anything seriously bad is going to happen to the characters, even at the end of the book when things get a bit tense.

So, a waste of your time and money? Well, no, possibly not. (But if you did not love Santa Olivia, this will certainly not change your mind, and you should give it a pass.)

One of the reasons why people write such fanfic and other people read it is that, if one particularly likes a set of characters, it is fun to spend more time in their presence. In this case, add to that the fact that, as my friends put it, the characters are as cute as a sack of puppies. Saints Astray is primarily a book in which one gets to watch two people who are desperately in love with each other be adorable with each other, at length, while Loup does Loup-like things. And there is some character development, albeit of the "inner strength revealed" unsurprising sort, and a final resolution that, while rather magical and much too easy, does bring closure to the situation outlined in the first book.

And I do love these characters. Even though Carey continues to have dialogue problems (this time rather too many "yeps" and "okays," and exchanges that seem too close to the shorthand of speech to be good written dialogue), some of the banter is quite fun. I cared about them even through some adventures that seemed pointless, and the way Loup attracts a popular following by accident made me grin. The ending worked for me too, albeit mostly on the back of the emotional attachment created by Santa Olivia rather than the events of this book.

If you want more Loup, Saints Astray does deliver. If you want more hard-won battles, impossible situations, and heart-breakingly courageous decisions, or even detailed analysis of what it means to be without fear, Saints Astray sadly does not. It's very light, playful, and almost without risk except at the conclusion. Know what you're getting into before you pick it up: Santa Olivia stands well on its own and the sequel doesn't come anywhere near its depth. But I still enjoyed it on its own terms.

And they really are as cute as a sack of puppies.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-07-09

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