Lili is a monster, a creature of murder and pain and torment who lures humans with the promise of love, only to feast upon their still-warm hearts flavored with the pain of death and the despair of love betrayed. And Lili is not alone. There are vampires, jinn, werewolves, sphinxes, a thousand and one undead and inhuman monstrosities roaming the world, feeding upon mortal souls and flesh. But Lili is haunted by something even worse than immortality … depression. A gnawing despair, a loneliness — uncommon in sirens, who are solitary creatures by nature — and the desire to let it end.
Stopping in Gamin was a whim. A place to sleep, a place to feed. The ghost in the hotel room was an unwelcome surprise. The innkeeper with his ledger questioning her humanity a niggling unease beneath her skin. One moment of pity for the ghost of the young man who killed himself in the hotel room leads to a moment of connection, a brief moment of warmth and laughter, which sparks something in Lili she hadn’t though herself capable of feeling.
And then the killings begin. Death after death of innocent lives, killed in such a way Lili has to wonder if it could be another siren. Or, worse, could it be her? With a necromancer, a witch, a poltergeist, and other assorted monsters, Lili is out to prove that the biggest, baddest monster in Gamin isn’t the killer stalking in the shadows. It’s her. And Lili’s getting angry.
Catch Lili Too is the first book in a new paranormal series, the Gamin Immortals, and introduces a plethora of paranormal characters I haven’t seen before. It’s a series that focus on the so-called monsters, such as Lili, who feeds on human hearts (though a pig heart will do in a pinch), or Jo, who needs human souls to survive.
Lili is a siren without a memory. She has flashes of the past, but, for the most part, she ignores them. After so many centuries, after so many murders, after so much living, she’s tired. Tired of the dreams, the memories, the knowledge of what she is and what she’s done, and she’s no longer interested in the past. She finds it hard enough to be interested in the present. She’s also asexual, which is unusual in a siren, a monstrous race known for its seduction techniques.
As it turns out, though, Lili isn’t quite asexual. While building up a found family with the necromancer and his witch of a sister, the poet ghost, and the jiangshi Jo (a zombie vampire from China), Lili finds herself feeling for the first time in … well, as long as she can remember. They ease the pain of loneliness, they make her laugh and feel and take care of her when she’s tired or sick. Slowly, very slowly, she begins to fall in love for the first time. Fortunately, the person she’s falling for not only falls back, but is willing to take as much time as Lili needs. Being immortal, they have all the time in the world.
The two women in Lili’s life — aside from Jason’s sister, the witch Patty — are Jo, the jiangshi, and Alethea, the monster hunter. Both of them cause very different reactions in Lili. With Jo, Lili feels protective and shy and … captivated. It’s not the incendiary burst of love at first light, it’s more like a spider testing the vibrations of a web to see if it’s friend or food. Alethea, a seer, who seems to be able to see into Lili’s very heart, is both fascinating and off-putting. She’s always aware when Alethea is in the room, always on edge, and Alethea is always promising the moon. The fun, the adventure, the two of them off on a monster killing hunt while Jo is quieter, less flashy, and more about the bonds of friends and family.
There is a lot in this book to like, and I wanted to like it so much more than I did, but a lot of little things just didn’t come together and I was left, like Lili, with a shrug. Lili starts of the book flat and disinterested, and the book — drawing from her point of view — is clipped and brusque. And then, suddenly, after a day or two, she, who has traveled the world for thousands of years alone and despairing, is best buds with Byron, the poetic poltergeist, and Jason the necromancer. They’re her found family within moments, with little to no build up and no emotional impact.
There are a lot of these tonal shifts fort Lili, such as having a pleasant enough conversation with the vampire mortician to declaiming, almost in Homeric declamation, about how she was a famed seductress from the ancient desert and is now standing in a morgue. The scene went from one moment to the next with nothing to tie it together and I was left confused and thinking less of Lili for it.
With all the telling and so little showing, I felt like I was being both hand-held, as well as rushed through the book. There was no time to breathe or for characters to develop before scenes and chapters moved on and I was told their reactions and actions almost as an afterthought. There are moments of choppy writing, followed by some really nice one-liners. The love scene where Lili confesses her life, and is confessed to in turn, is lovely. It’s then followed by some slap-dash moments where every character has their allotted time to react, just so we know everyone knows what everyone else knows.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The idea — monsters coming together, the so-called dark and inhuman creatures hunting an equally inhuman serial killer — is compelling. The author clearly reads many of the same sorts of books I do because I see so many tired tropes taken, shaken, turned on their heads and made interesting, or at least given a new coat of paint, and yet, they never quite work for me. There are moments that seem set up to be funny, but the delivery is so broken up by a lack of build up that I never found it … well, funny.
This book packs in so much plot, so many ideas, and so much set up that there was no time to breathe. There was no time to get to know the characters, in part because I was told who they were again and again without being given a chance to actually get to know them. I was left untethered to the story as anything but a neat idea with a few nice turns of phrase here and there. That said, I will be looking forward to the next book in the series to see what more the author has in store. And to hope that, now that the world has been introduced, the characters will get more of a chance to show up.