Succubus Blues

by Richelle Mead

Cover image

Series: Georgina Kincaid #1
Publisher: Kensington
Copyright: 2007
ISBN: 1-4201-1903-6
Format: Kindle
Pages: 375

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A current trend in urban fantasy I like is the movement away from the single-minded obsession with vampires, slowly expanding into werewolves and zombies, that characterized much of the initial surge. While werewolves are moderately more interesting than vampires or zombies, there are a lot of magical creatures out there and a lot of different frameworks to tap into. Going a bit farther afield is now becoming more common, with multiple long-running series that touch on the three staples only lightly, if at all.

Succubus Blues, as one might guess, is the first book in one of those series that moves farther afield. Georgina Kincaid is a succubus, although not a very good one. She reports to a middle manager demon and in theory should be corrupting the innocent, but she actually tries to only sleep with and take life energy from scum. The rest of the time, she works in a bookstore (while having sex with the married store manager) and hangs out with her friends: an imp and a couple of vampires. The vampires are typical for the "almost exactly like humans except for feeding habits and supernatural physical abilities" style of vampire, and thankfully have almost no part in this story.

Rather more central to the story is Georgina's supernatural boss and his buddy, the local angel. I like urban fantasy that's willing to mix angels and demons into the menagerie, along with all the religious complications that they involve. Mead here uses one of my favorite models: an angel who's a drinking buddy with his demonic counterpart and who is almost (but not entirely) just like the demons. Throughout this book, morality is treated as a deeper and more situational thing than following a set of rules, and it's left nicely ambiguous whether Carter, the angel, is only doing his job half-heartedly (like many of the local demons) or is involved in some deeper purpose that he only shows when something really important is happening.

Neither the story nor the characters take themselves very seriously, something signaled well by the opening chapter (so this is a book for which a Kindle preview is quite effective). It's definitely fluff reading, but it's fluff that makes room for some surprisingly good characterization. We're mostly invited to smile at some of Georgina's angst (Georgina largely does), but underneath that is some real pain and a thoughtful look at what it would be like to be a thousand-year-old succubus. The primary romance (there are two, but it's pretty obvious from the start which one is going to be primary) does a much better job with a clash of communication and interaction styles than a lot of more serious novels I've read, including showing the benefits of epistolary communication for introverts, a theme that's near to my heart. And Mead manages decent characterization of both a strong extrovert and a strong introvert in the same book, including some subtle interaction effects that I rarely see represented.

The crux of the plot won't be a surprise to anyone who knows much about the weird corner cases of angels and demons, but does stay away from familiar vampire and werewolf territory. Mead's writing isn't stellar, but it's functional and mostly unobjectionable, featuring the typical urban fantasy first-person default voice. Without the relationships and surprisingly good characterization, it would be a neat but forgettable world setting. With that, I enjoyed it rather more than I expected, and for different reasons than I expected.

If you're looking for some romantic urban fantasy fluff, with some characterization that goes deeper than the fluff surface, give this a try. Not the book to reach for when you want challenging literature, but it's a good comfort book.

Followed by Succubus on Top.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2011-09-11

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21