Beth, a young woman living in small-town Wisconsin, accidentally photographs an invisible monster, bringing her to the attention of the powerful forces of a mysterious other world, the "Second Emanation." She is conscripted into a force whose purpose is to keep the existence of this other world a secret from humankind. She soon discovers that this organization does not have either her or humanity's best interests at heart.
Disclaimer: Becca Mills' blog, The Active Voice, has cross-posted a couple of my book reviews to her site.
Nolander is an enormously entertaining book, with a well-paced and exciting story built atop a very clever magic system that blurs the line between sci-fi and fantasy. It has a lot of very memorable, gosh-that-was-cool moments, and some exceptionally interesting characters. Speaking of which, I have to give "Best in Show" to Ghosteater, the lovably misanthropic wolf monster with little patience for the complex rules of the humans. Runner up goes to the scene-stealing tree-octopus water mage.
The main character spends most of the book in a very tense predicament, as the unwilling servant of an organization that wants to wield her powers, while at the same time needing their help to understand her powers. It's a dynamic that keeps the pages turning.
Perhaps Mills' prose is a bit more straightforward than I might prefer. I migrate toward prose with a more aggressive vocabulary and more complex sentence structures, which doesn't make for easy reading. Nolander is an easy read, more suited for the bustle of a public transit commute than a quiet evening spent by a roaring fire, wearing a crushed velvet smoking jacket and drinking fifty year old scotch from a snifter, silently attended by my manservant Frederick. But I suppose the hoi polloi must have their bread and circuses.
That's a bit of a backhanded way of saying I thought the book was very accessible. I'm not even sure it's a minus for me, and I know it will be a big plus for a lot of readers.
Frederick! My evening pork rind allotment, if you will.
There were a couple of points in the book where the story slowed to a crawl for me. As a male, I now invoke my inalienable right to find even a brief "girls go shopping" montage painfully tedious.
I've never cared for first-person narration. Usually it's one of those things that slips into the background by the end of the first chapter. Toward the end of the book, there was this literarily awkward moment where the narration continued on in the first person, despite the putative narrator not being present. I don't see why this happens, since the author already has a second POV character in Ghosteater. In fact, I think he was in most of those scenes. So I didn't understand the thinking behind that decision.
I would deduct a star for this, but Ghosteater would just steal it back. He's not a polite doggy.
Note: it's Book I in a series. As of this writing, Book II (Solatium) is still "forthcoming." I hate it when that happens. :)