Sunday, August 8, 2010

mix of celtic folklore & australia in new urban fantasy secret ones by nicole murphy

Finally, finally, an urban fantasy novel with something new to say. Secret Ones by Nicole Murphy is an interesting mix of Celtic folklore and imagination; and set in Australia, it has a different background to add to to it. 
Murphy is an Australian author who's worked as a teacher and journalist, as well as being instrumental in a number of “fandom” projects; she's also been a speculative fiction editor.
So one would assume she would know something about writing a good piece of urban, or speculative, fiction. Thankfully she does.
The “Secret Ones” of the title are the “gadda”, a people who while they look human; aren't. They can wield magic by borrowing energy from nature and using various spells.
Murphy's “gadda” are somewhat akin to the Celtic traditions of elves, there's an Irish connection – that seems to be where they come from – and general references to Celtic cultural practice as well.
Still, the concept is relatively fresh – although Laurell K Hamilton did it first with the Sidhe – elves or fey – living in modern America in her Merry Gentry series of books.
The addition of Australia is nice; better than yet another urban fantasy set in America. And the characters that Murphy has created are well-rounded and believable.
Maggie Shaunessy is an Australian-born gadda who has a history of protecting humans and working with humans – something that is looked down upon by another group of gadda who would prefer to stay “Pure” and have nothing to do with humans at all.
Maggie's family – at least her mother and grandfather – live in Australia and interact daily with humans, running a university and a medical clinic and trying to help them. Maggie's father is in Ireland, he's more traditional and possibly one of the Purists.
Added to the mix is a newcomer – and a love interest for Maggie, of course – Lucas Valeroso, a physicist who's from the wrong side of the tracks entirely, and totally unaware that he might not be entirely human.
Murphy mixes up black magic, stolen books, political machinations, historical feuds and romance with a vaguely recognisable Celtic mythology, to create an urban fantasy story that is relatively fresh for the reader.
Some of the descriptions and Maggie's musings are a bit clunky, but the dialogue is good, as is the pacing. There's not much of a twist to the plot, the reader is fairly certain where it's all leading by about halfway through, but it's a fun read nonetheless.
Secret Ones is the first book in what's shaping up to be at least a trilogy, if not a series; it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Secret Ones by Nicole Murphy is published by Harper Voyager and is available from good book stores and online.


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