Finder Voice: The Quest for the Ring (no, not that one)
A while back, i read (and reviewed) a comic entitled "Finder: Sin Eater", the first book in a series by Carla Speed McNeil which dealt with the adventures of the titular Finder, a half-Ascian (the equivalent to Native Americans) named Jeager, and his various associates. I loved its strange world (a city named Anvard under a huge malfunctioning dome that blocks out almost everything happening in the outside world) and its even stranger characters, and resolved to read more of its stories if I got my hands on them.
Well, I have finally found time to read another Finder book (ironically, the most recent one), this one called "Voice," which does not focus on Jaeger but instead a woman trying to find him. Jaeger served as a soldier under Rachel Grosvenor's father, and was her mother's lover for a long time (after her father was jailed and estranged from the family). Having grown up with Jaeger, Rachel knows that he is the sort of person to turn to when something needs to be discovered or recovered, and finds herself in need of his services.
Anvard is controlled by a council of powerful clans, who take on various roles in society. Each clan attempts to cultivate certain physical characteristics, temperaments, and skill sets, and tests young adults who wish to be fully admitted into a clan in a suspenseful series of competitions and examinations. Becoming a full member of a clan leads to riches and societal advantages, while being culled makes it that much harder to get ahead in life.
Rachel is determined to join the effiminate and fashionable Llaverac clan, so that her sister Marcie can go to college and the rest of her family can live in comfort. However, as Rachel is not a pure-blooded Llaverac (her father comes from the soldier/police/medical Medawar clan), her participation in the Llaverac clan initiation competition (a beauty contest) is that much more difficult. Things become even worse when she and Marcie are mugged on their way home, and her family ring is lost.
To even compete in the competition, she needs a ring certifying that she is a descendant of a clan family, and her various attempts to get a new ring fail. In order to regain her ring, she'll need to find Jaeger in order to ask for help, but it's been years since she's seen him, and he always was a rather slippery and migratory fellow. So Rachel sets out to track Jaeger down, along the way having run-ins with cowboy vampires, the police, Voodoo-like Ascian priests, street gangs, flighty Llaveracs, and a mysterious and creepy thug who is also trying to find Jaeger in order to settle a score with him. As she tries to follow the trail of Jaeger's associates through all sorts of strange places, Rachel will discover things she didn't know about herself, Jaeger, and the city she calls home.
As a main viewpoint character Rachel is an interesting choice. Half the time, she doesn't really seem to know what she's doing, as she blunders through all sorts of confusing or dangerous situations. Despite having only the most basic idea of how to find someone like Jaeger, and discovering that almost everyone that she meets either can't or won't help her find Jaeger or her ring, she perseveres and discovers herself to be resourceful, cunning, and tenacious, a fascinating and extremely interesting character all around.
Many of the characters she encounters are also fascinating. The man who follows her in order to find Jaeger for himself is chilling, outwardly friendly but obviously an extremely dangerous person who does not bear either Rachel or Jaeger good will. The high level Llaverac Lord Rod is similarly outwardly friendly and gregarious, concealing a cold hatred for rabble like Rachel who he considers scum. On the other side of things, Jaeger's old friend Brom is as helpful as he can be, which unfortunately is not much (he doesn't know where Jaeger is either, but he gives Rachel some addresses to look into), all while remaining fascinatingly enigmatic (why was he handcuffed to a hospital bench in order to "give blood"?). Rachel, who obviously felt that she knew Jaeger fairly well, is shocked to discover he has a brother, Roy, he never mentioned, who resembles his brother in various subtle ways but clearly has a chip on his shoulder for being compared to him constantly. And these are just the characters Rachel spends longer periods of time with: there are many more fascinating minor characters Rachel encounters in her travels for just a few panels or pages.
The city of Anvard is a fascinating setting for a story. it is surprisingly approachable despite being so alien (clans of people who look almost identical, areas of the city which are never lit, "TV kudzu" sprouting screens on walls all over the city, etc.), as people in this world still go to bars, watch TV, get harassed by the police, and ride the bus. This greatly helps to deal with the stranger elements of Anvard. In addition, Carla Speed McNeil writes extensive notes in the back in order to explain the subtleties of what's going on, and provide background on events and characters that happened in other books. It is not strictly necessary to have read the other books in order to understand what is going on (after all, I've only read one myself), but it would probably help.
All in all, an extremely readable story of a character discovering what she is made of and what kind of person she is. If you're a fan of "Finder" go read it (if you haven't already) and if you aren't (yet) then I would suggest tracking it or the previous volumes down as soon as you can.