Review of Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey
by Jacqueline Carey
Poison Fruit, like Autumn Bones, does not let much time elapse between books. The events of Halloween are still fresh in people’s minds as New Year approaches. Now Daisy has to get to the bottom of what the hell-spawn lawyer Daniel Dufreyne is doing buying up land around Little Niflheim. And she also needs to sort out her complicated feelings about her attractions to Stefan and Cody.
I’ll start off with the romance angle here. Poison Fruit feels like the most conventional of the three books in terms of how Carey deals with the romance. In the first book, because we were still getting to know each of the characters and the setting, it felt fresh and interesting: Daisy’s attraction to Cody was mitigated by Jen’s crush, and her attraction to Stefan was more of a notion than anything else. When she ended up dating Sinclair, it was a relief—Carey didn’t seem like she was setting up a love triangle. Then Autumn Bones came along, and suddenly Sinclair is out of the picture, and Cody and Stefan are waiting in the wings. Still, though, not much of a love triangle, because the relationship with Cody was purely a physical one.
It’s hard to avoid it, though: Poison Fruit is pretty much a love triangle. Granted, Cody and Stefan are pretty chill about the whole thing; I appreciate that they aren’t vying for Daisy’s affection (and, indeed, Cody is trying really hard to ignore the attraction at all, because he wants to settle down and have pups with a nice lady-werewolf). Still, I’ll confess to a little disappointment: I was really hoping Carey could offer us something beyond the “multiple hot guys” scenario that seems to proliferate through urban fantasy fiction with female protagonists (the opposite heteronormative case of “multiple hot girls” afflicts such fiction with male protagonists, of course).
That being said, I’ll give Carey credit for creating conflict and drama within the relationship without making either character an idiot. Daisy and her new lover make mistakes; they push each other’s buttons a little too far—which, you know, is troublesome when you have eldritch powers that flare up when your emotions run high—but as with Daisy and Sinclair’s relationship, the solution is—shockingly—communication. This fruit might be poisoned, but at least it isn’t low-hanging.
The diction of the sex scene was a little humorous, but that might just be me.
Daisy’s relationships, romantic or otherwise, are important to the enjoyment of this book as a whole, not just because of her status as narrator but also because, as half-hellspawn, half-human, she is representative of Pemkowet itself. She straddles the mundane and the eldritch communities, subject to the laws of both, and thanks to her roles in the Pemkowet police and as Hel’s liaison, charged with upholding both mundane and eldritch law. It’s tough, walking that line. Carey demonstrates that, as much as the existence of the supernatural is an established fact in this universe, acknowledging that something exists and believing in it are two different things. Time and again, mundane humans have trouble understanding the significance of eldritch affairs and their impact on human activity in Pemkowet.
The lawsuit that Dufreyne brings against the town is brilliant. I like the idea that eldritch beings and chthonic gods have to be savvy about mortal concerns like wealth and property and liability law, lest they run afoul of a judge vulnerable to powers of persuasion. This was a fun way for Carey to juxtapose the more traditional customs of eldritch interaction—honour, favours, etc.—with our more litigious society—but it also has very serious consequences.
Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. Poison Fruit is just as fun as the other two books in the series. (The less said about the literal deus ex machina ending, the better.) It was a welcome break after reading a couple of heavier books, and Carey’s writing is as enjoyable as ever. I’m starting to get that feeling one gets after binging on too many of the same type of book in short order—but I don’t regret reading all three Agent of Hel books so close together either.
I can’t find Carey herself saying anywhere that this is the last book, but other places seem to think this is the conclusion of a trilogy. It’s true the climax and resolution have that feeling. But there is still plenty here for Carey to explore, should she choose to return to Pemkowet and Daisy Johanssen. I would be sad, honestly, if she didn’t, to the point that my overall opinion of this series is paradoxically contingent on it continuing. If it stops here, Agent of Hel is a good urban fantasy trilogy that occasionally attempts to rise above genre convention. That’s it. On the other hand, it has so much potential to grow better and better with each instalment—but whether we will see that realized is up to Carey.
Oh, and Skrrzzzt is totally the best. I love him so much.