Snake Agent, by Liz Williams

429890Over the last week, I’ve been reading (very slowly) Snake Agent by Liz Williams. (And the slowness is really only due to my business this month, otherwise, I think I would have zipped through this book already and be at the point of regretting that its over and that I now have to go and track down the rest of the series). So far, my thought is “Why haven’t I heard of this author before now?” She’s wonderful. This is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read in a long time.

Like John Burdett’s books, Liz Williams book basically takes a genre that developed in the West and put it in Asia. In this book, the genre is contemporary fantasy–with some horror, science fiction, and mystery thrown in. And, like Burdett’s Jitpleecheep, I get a totally different perspective on these kinds of stories because of the narrator.

In Snake Agent, Inspector Chan is a detective who handles supernatural cases. So far so good, but then we learn that he has a demon for a wife, he’s on the outs with his patron goddess, Kuan Yin, and Hell is up to something more sinister than usual. And, he’s got a demon hunter from Beijing after his wife. I am totally hooked. I’m not done with this yet, but there are so many loose plot threads that I am very interested to see how this all turns out.

What I think I like best about this book is how much detail Williams put into the worlds the characters inhabit. I don’t know what kind of research the author put into this, and if it accurately shows an Asian idea of Hell and the afterlife. But I am fascinated by how this version of Hell differs from the Western version of it. I know that other authors have probably played with the idea that Hell is a bureaucracy, but Williams really runs with it.

The only problem I have with this book is that, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out if it was the first book in the series. I hate picking up a book in the middle of a series, for various reasons. As far as I could tell, this was the first book, but the characters kept referring to events that might have happened in a previous book. Rrr. It took me about half of the book to decide that this really is the first volume. But apart from that, I am really enjoying this. It’s fast-paced; the plot is complicated and wonderfully involving.

So now, it looks like I’m going to have to find the rest of the series.

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