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Under the Hill: Bomber's Moon (Volume 1) Paperback – March 25, 2017
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The Book Description:The faeries at the bottom of the garden are coming back--with an army.
Under the Hill, Part 1
When Ben Chaudhry is attacked in his own home by elves, they disappear as quickly as they came. He reaches for the phone book, but what kind of exterminator gets rid of the Fae? Maybe the Paranormal Defense Agency will ride to his rescue.
Sadly, they turn out to be another rare breed: a bunch of UFO hunters led by Chris Gatrell, who--while distractingly hot--was forcibly retired from the RAF on grounds of insanity.
Shot down in WWII--and shot forward seventy years in time, stranded far from his wartime sweetheart--Chris has been a victim of the elves himself. He fears they could destroy Ben's life as thoroughly as they destroyed his. Chris is more than willing to protect Ben with his body. He never bargained for his heart getting involved.
Just when they think there's a chance to build a life together, a ghostly voice from Chris's past warns that the danger is greater than they can imagine. And it may take more than a team of rank amateurs to keep Ben--and the world--out of the elf queen's snatching hands...
Brace yourself for mystery, suspense, sexual tension, elves in space and a nail-biting cliffhanger ending.
My Review: Exactly and precisely as the book description says it is. Now, anyone who has ever interacted with me knows I'm no fan of fantasy, but there is nothing on earth more useless than a hermetically sealed mind so I tried this out. Fantasy plus men having sex with each other *must* be better than the straight kind.
Well, yeah, of course.
But there isn't any serious sex in here, so unwad your panties you breeders. One little scene, nothing even close to explicit. The point of this novel isn't the zeal of the organs for each other, it's the Hero's Journey. And the Hero has a wonderful journey, from WWII to 1995 in a blink, then living through the birth of our 21st-century world, and meeting someone whose own Hero's Journey is crossgrained to his own. Ben is Indian, living in Bakewell, and working in a bank; Chris is as English as spotted dick, living in Bakewell, and fighting the forces of supernatural invasion as he once fought the Luftwaffe. They aren't instantly obviously going to fit together. And that's the fun, romantic part of the story.
But then there's the fantasy bit, complete with German fairies invading and occupying English Elven territory; an ancient prophecy that demands an English bomber crew be brought to the other world; an air force of modern fighters in the elven lands, ready to rain destruction on...well, anyone; and a princess hostage damsel in distress to satisfy the conventions, one whose seductiveness can straighten the crooked path of a lost navigator.
I've read Beecroft's Hearts-of-Oaky smexy romances, and so I knew what to expect from the prose. It's direct, it's unfussy, and it's effective. (It also needs copyediting, but that's not Beecroft's fault, it's Samhain's...I mean, calling someone "died-in-the-wool"? It's DYED and that should have knocked the publisher's eye out!) I had sort-of hoped for the Age of Sail's smut content, since I like that kind of thing, but was steeled for the mildness of the entry by previous reviews.
The issues for me, apart from the copyediting, were focused around the hanging-together-ness of the plot's big points. Why, I wondered, does it not occur to modern-day Ben (20s) to ask why Chris (late 30s) is SO old-fashioned? It's right completely out of the modern day, the way Chris behaves towards Ben, even after Chris comes out to him. How has Chris managed to live almost 20 years in the modern era and not had more of it rub off on him? How on earth does he live, I mean money-wise? They're niggles. But they're niggles about big points.
But, and this is why I rated this book at least a full star above any other with issues that size, this is a thumping good read, with lots of very interesting urban-fantasy takes on old fantasy tropes, and characters whose happiness I actually care about. Yes, yes, teenaged girls are people too, but I don't care about their Special Uniqueness and Awesome Powers even a little bit. I do care about Ben's. And Chris's. And I want them to have a happily ever after.
Because they're man-lovin' men. For once someone is talking to ME. And I like it. Thanks, Mrs. Beecroft, for doing your usual solid job of entertaining me.
Writing that actually has a STYLE and a VOICE that is not totally interchangeable with every other book in this genre. Gorgeous descriptions.
"Real" fairies and fairy landscapes. I'm not terribly interested in books with fairy/fae/faerie-whatever characters who are presented as more conventionally attractive than humans and nothing else. Supermodel fairies are deadly boring, in other words. The ones in Bomber's Moon are true to folklore, compelling, complicated, unpredictable, sometimes terrifying. If you've read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, imagine those fairies but toned down just a little, more accessible as to motive (but still alien), then those are like the ones in Bomber's Moon. The geography of the fairy realm is described in incredibly rich terms. It's beautiful and hallucinatory and you're always a bit disoriented reading about it.
WWII characters true to their time. We have the dashing crew of the doomed Lancaster, the two airmen who forged a bond deeper than friendship. If you love this sort of historical stuff (I do) it's presented in vivid, grounded detail. One of the men, having gone forward in time, does suffer from displacement issues, although he's found a measure of stability in such a radically different environment.
"'We never expected to live through it, that was the thing.' Some of its sweetness, its power, had been borrowed from the knowledge that tomorrow or the next night or the one after that they would die in a fireball together, falling out of the sky like a comet. A funeral worthy of warriors, brief and blazing and gone." (p. 179)
Yes, there's a Torchwood connection, with all the stuff about time travel and a team of paranormal investigators, even a Torchwood reference, which made me chuckle and rub my hands. I don't think Bomber's Moon is derivative; it just wears its many influences on its sleeve. Because the characters are sophisticated and self-aware and have a sense of humor, they invoke this kind of pop-culture stuff (Ghostbusters, too), though not with an obnoxious frequency.
Ben Chaudhry is a complicated and sympathetic character of color. He's had a lot of issues with racism, homophobia, and then went through a traumatic disaster a few years before the events of the book, yet he's much more than a bundle of neuroses. I feel like I don't really know him yet, but he's got layers that remain to be revealed. Many things hinted at in his past, I'm dying to see revealed. This book is heavily tied to English identity, the land, the countryside... but by having Ben be such an integral part of the story, that English identity is very much not limited to whiteness.
Bomber's Moon has a great cast of secondary characters, both in the world of the mound and in the modern day. Lots of women characters; in fact, I think most of them are! And there are also major hints of a bisexual character and a heterosexual romance developing as a side plot. I love that.
A subtle but potentially intense romance. The main pair--I wasn't sure they were the main pair at first, but now I'm rooting for them--are clearly destined for each other. There really isn't much sex in this book. A few memories here and there, and a hurried encounter that creates more problems than expresses any great emotion. But there's plenty of heat and sensuality and longing glances, enough that I found the romantic elements quite moving and even teared up in a couple places.
My major complaint is the decision to release this in two parts. Ultimately, this is the publisher's decision, and I'm sure they have their reasons. But I was quite ready to read the rest. If the next book is also 70k words, and the entire story is 140k, then that, in my mind, is not even doorstopper length. In fact, it's rather slim for epic fantasy, which this is, even though it's also urban/rural fantasy with all the modern-day settings and characters. The fact that I was not able to read the whole story really messes with my ability to judge the pacing and suspense of this book.... not to mention my ability TO FIND OUT THE GODDAMN ENDING. Sigh.