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Swallowing Darkness: Meredith Gentry, Book 7    by Laurell K. Hamilton order for
Swallowing Darkness
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Laurell K. Hamilton excels at erotic fantasy, in both her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and Meredith Gentry series. Though some episodes of the latter have lingered - rather long for my own preferences - on orgies involving heroine Meredith Gentry (aka Princess Meredith Nic Essus of Faerie) and her large and immortal male harem of frustrated Sidhe lords, I was pleased to find a return to action in this seventh entry in the series, Swallowing Darkness.

In the previous episode, A Lick of Frost, Meredith's mad uncle Taranis, the Seelie King of Light and Illusion, accused three of her men of raping one of his noblewomen, and later proceeded to use glamour to rape his niece himself - but only after she was already pregnant with twins by several of her own retinue (don't ask how, it's magic after all!) Merry also grieved over the loss of Frost, morphed by wild magic into a white stag - 'an animal with an animal's mind' and so lost to her, perhaps for her entire mortal lifetime.

Now, while being treated for shock in a human hospital, Merry suffers another attack from a shockingly unlikely source, and rides in the wild hunt seeking - and winning - revenge. When some of her Sidhe lovers are desperately injured, she seeks refuge with Sholto's folk, the sluagh, and is crowned as their queen. The Goddess, who intervenes on several occasions (but only after Meredith calls on her), advises her to 'Go back to the Western lands' and pass on some of the Goddess's magic to mortals. This is essentially what Merry does, but only after hard battles, including one with her unpleasant cousin, Prince Cel and his sadistic mother Andais, the Queen of Air and Darkness.

I enjoyed this episode very much. It reveals a new, tougher princess, fighting hard for her babies' survival, and for those she loves. Along the way, she returns the goblins their birthright and learns who killed her father. Her interactions with human police and military are at times amusing, at others heartwarming. As Merry comments after returning full circle to work at the Gray Detective Agency in Los Angeles, 'Sometimes Fairyland is where you make it.' It will be fascinating to see where Laurell K. Hamilton takes this very popular series next.

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