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Mistral's Kiss    by Laurell K. Hamilton order for
Mistral's Kiss
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If hot and heavy sex were an Olympic event, both Laurell K. Hamilton's heroines (vampire hunter Anita Blake and Unseelie Princess Meredith NicEssus) would be contenders, but the latter would win the gold for her efforts at the beginning of Mistral's Kiss (they take up the entire first third of the book, aside from brief interruptions by aunt Andais, the vicious Queen of Air and Darkness, who delights in cruelty and torture).

Half-human Meredith Gentry, once a private detective in Los Angeles, is now joint heir to the Unseelie throne - but will lose that position along with her life if the Queen's nasty son, Prince Cel, manages to beget a child before she does. Hence the princess's unrelenting attempts to procreate with each and every member of her sidhe bodyguard - not necessarily one at a time either. This episode opens on a dream - of 'warm flesh and cookies', seguing into a Goddess and a God giving Meredith a cup of horn with the words 'Drink and be merry.' She proceeds to take that advice - first with embittered Abeloec, and then with Mistral, the queen's new captain of the guard.

They make a magic together that brings to life the dead gardens, 'once magical underground lands where legend had it that faerie had its own sun and moon, rain and weather', invoking a power that had faded long before Merry's birth. And though Andais isn't happy about lending her niece Mistral, she can't argue with results. The garden changes, some of their party disappear, and the door the princess conjures takes them to the kingdom of the sluagh, where Merry makes even more powerful mojo with King Sholto, Lord of That Which Passes Between. Together, they invoke major magic, and Sholto unleashes the wild hunt - whose nightmares pursue them into the human world.

Though Mistral's Kiss starts slowly, the action builds to a crescendo of an ending, as Meredith and her immortal male harem love and fight their way through Faerie, transforming it in the process. I can only echo Diana Gabaldon's comment on the first in the series, A Kiss of Shadows, that 'I've never read a writer with a more fertile imagination.'

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