Yasmin Stoker leads ghost tours for tourists; a pretty steady business in Shoregrave, the murder capital of the country. She’s also a wraith who eats the souls of newly-risen vampires for dinner and helps the local Lich Lord Nicomedes- whether she likes it or not- keep the Pale World in its place. Her life is complicated enough.
Now there’s a new kind of demon on the scene, capturing young men and carrying them to the Netherworld. Nicomedes orders her to ignore it and focus on keeping clueless human P.I. Ethan Banning, who is following a string of child murders, from finding out about the Pale World. But the demon isn’t stopping, and neither is Ethan. Can Yasmin carry out her orders without getting caught in the crossfire?
The first and most obvious thing to love about this book is its atmosphere. Clark is a skilled designer of creepy settings, and Shoregrave wears it well. The characters do too- her description of Nicomedes is perhaps the most vivid and disturbing of the book, rivaled only by that of the demon she hopes to stop. The only problem with this is that it makes one of the primary villains of the book seem like an afterthought. Compared to the supernatural characters, the humans in Afterlife seem like cardboard cutouts- apart from Ethan, who couldn’t be anything less than his own messed-up self.
Perhaps that’s rather the point, though. This book is really about the struggles of the supernatural world, and even though the main characters live with mortals, their connections to them are tenuous and problematic at best. (Fans of the U.K. series Being Human will find this theme easy to relate to.) In contrast, the relationships between the immortals, romantic and otherwise, are complex and well-built. Even the trivial scenes between them are vivid; one of the most poignant interactions takes place between Yasmin and a pair of little-girl ghosts on her tour route.
There are a few problems with this otherwise fabulous book: Clark leaves what seems like an important plot point (the significance of the Lich Lords’ human “pets”) completely unresolved. It’s possible this will figure in a sequel, but it’s given such a sense of urgency by the Lich Lord Lucretia that I was surprised when it was never mentioned again. Also, the proofreading is much sloppier than I would expect from an established small press. This book deserved more attention from its publisher.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of urban or dark fantasy. Clark is an amazing writer, and this book is a great introduction to her work- and to Ethan!
Author: Naomi Clark
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication: Damnation Books, LLC (December 1, 2009)
Author’s Website: http://naomijay.blogspot.com/