Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Last Car to Annwn Station (e-book) by Michael Merriam

Last Car to Annwn Station is published by Carina Press and is included in their Fae, Fantasy, Female/Female, and Romance categories. I'd call it more fantasy than romance.

Like most of my e-books, this is something I purchased. I can't remember if it was a recommendation on a blog, or if it just caught my eye while I was scanning Carina Press's offerings. Unfortunately for those of you who prefer to read paper books, as far as I know this is only available in e-book form. It's 81,000 words long, which worked out to 205 pages on my Nook (208 total).


Mae works for Minneapolis Child Protective Services. One of her newest cases is odd and frustrating. Despite all the evidence of abuse and neglect, judges keep returning Chrysandra Arneson, now 12 years old, to her mother, Marie Arneson. The only reason for this that Mae can think of is that Arnesons are wealthy and well-connected.

Mae refuses to let Chrysandra's case go, but she quickly ends up in deeper, stranger trouble than she could ever have expected. After first trying to deal with a magical streetcar and the hounds of the Wild Hunt on her own, she finally confides in a friend of hers, a law librarian named Jill. Together, they find themselves dealing with danger in both the human and fae worlds.


This book has a lot of elements that might attract readers: a magical streetcar, a zombie child, a multitude of fae creatures, references to Welsh mythology, and a bit of f/f romance. While many of those elements interested me at first, I found Last Car to Annwn Station to be so-so overall.

I felt like I spent a lot of this book waiting for things to happen. Through “Chrysandra”'s wall writings, I knew what was going on with her – mostly, she was trapped in one spot, trying to survive, watching the real Chrysandra rot, and waiting for an opportunity to either get help or attack her captors. I tended to prefer the scenes with Mae and Jill most when something more than information-gathering was going on – when they were being attacked by the hounds of the Wild Hunt, looking around or breaking into the Arnesons' home, or entering Annwn. Unfortunately, large portions of the book tended to bore me. There were too many scenes of people sitting or standing around, debating what to do.

The development of Mae and Jill's relationship seemed a little awkward. I found myself thinking that they would have made better, more natural friends than lovers. For a good chunk of the book, Mae was somewhat interested in Jill but wasn't really sure if those feelings were mutual. She didn't see how they could be, since she thought of herself as plain and Jill as gorgeous. Their first kissing scene was, in my opinion, badly timed – Jill was bandaged up quite a bit, and I kept wondering when Mae would accidentally hurt her. Their relationship did get to a point where it felt more natural, but the progression to that point could have been smoother.

The fantasy elements were a bit bland. This was not a book that reveled in complex magical systems or even descriptions of various faerie cultures and creatures. I'm still not really sure how an old Minneapolis streetcar fits in with Welsh mythology and, although I know that there were several fae creatures that looked different from each other, I couldn't tell you much about them besides that. The one thing that probably got the most attention was Annwn itself. Oh, and Death.

I was a little surprised at the book's horror elements, coming in the form of a rotting, zombified Chrysandra. There were several times I thought I'd gotten used to her and found myself sighing at yet another one of “Chrysandra”'s reminders that the real Chrysandra was rotting...and then something would happen that horrified me anew. I actually found myself more interested in Chrysandra and how she was getting on than I was in any of the fae creatures.

The last 20 pages or so really picked up the pace and grabbed my interest to the point where I stayed up a bit later than I had planned. I would have preferred it, though, if the book had wrapped up with something other than one of “Chrysandra”'s diary entries.

This wasn't a bad book. I worried about Chrysandra and her double, and I liked that the f/f elements were tastefully done (never once did it feel like Mae and Jill were putting on a show for male readers). I wondered how and if Mae and Jill would manage to save themselves and protect Chrysandra. However, the book didn't really have anything to it that grabbed me or would prompt me to reread it.

  • Born to Run (book) by Mercedes Lackey - This is the first book in Lackey's SERRAted Edge series. I've linked to the Baen Free Library version of the book, since I had a little difficulty figuring out if there was an in-print edition of Born to Run that I could link to in Amazon. Anyway, those who'd like another contemporary-set book involving fae beings and magic might want to try this. I don't believe Lackey has any gay or lesbian characters in this series, but she does in her Heralds of Valdemar series - you might try Arrows of the Queen (has lesbian minor characters) or Magic's Pawn (has a gay main character, although he doesn't realize it at first) if that particular aspect interests you and you don't mind more traditional fantasy.
  • Moon Called (book) by Patricia Briggs - This is the first book in the Mercy Thompson series, which stars a woman who's a skinwalker (she can change into a coyote). She has some often uncomfortable dealings with vampires, fae, and werewolves. A later book in the series has a zombified character moment similar to Chrysandra.
  • Urban Shaman (book) by C.E. Murphy - Those who'd like another contemporary-set fantasy involving a heroine who gradually learns about magic and beings she never realized existed might want to try this.
  • Neverwhere (book) by Neil Gaiman - The magical streetcar made me think of this book, in which London Underground turns out to be a kind of gateway between the world we know and a world of magic, fantasy, and danger.

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