Trammel by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox

Rating: 7/10 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 
Title: Trammel
Authors: Anah Crow and Dianne Fox
Genre: paranormal, horror
URL: Samhain Publishing
Price: US$5.50
Other Information/warnings: copious gore, violence, reference to horrific accidental deaths, explicit sexual content
Summary [from the publisher]:

In the relative security of Atlantic City, Lindsay feels safe for the first time in his life. He and Dane even sneak away from their mage “family” for the occasional date.

All that ends with the arrival of Noah, whose magic is a pure, wild fire fueled by terrible grief over the loss of his wife. To Lindsay’s great surprise, he is assigned to be Noah’s mentor, protector and healer. Of course, his efforts to help Noah master his immense power aren’t without a few fiery slip-ups.

Just as Lindsay is rising to the challenge, word comes that Moore, the scientist who once imprisoned Lindsay, holds a young girl who has manifested a powerful new magic. The desperate mission to free her leaves Noah severely wounded, Dane captured…and Lindsay in charge of those who remain.

The fate of Dane and the lives of the family rest on Lindsay’s untested shoulders. He must trust in himself and his growing connection to Noah to save his lover, his friends, and everyone else who will suffer if Moore’s plans go unchecked.

My review [warning – many spoilers]:

I can’t really review this sequel to the superb Tatterdemalion without spoiling it, so please don’t read on if you don’t wish to be spoiled.

I enjoyed Tatterdemalion. I’m a huge fan of Anah Crow’s Uneven. While I wasn’t exactly hanging out for the sequel to Tatterdemalion, I was pretty sure when I bought it, I was in for a treat.

Which is why – apart from the fact that the authors are lovely, talented people whom I follow on Twitter – I was surprised and more than a little disappointed that Trammel just didn’t work for me. I even went back after I read it, to reread Tatterdemalion, just to make sure memory wasn’t  making the former book rosier than it was, but no – if anything, I enjoyed the previous story more.

Trammel just missed the emotional sweetspot entirely.

Of the things I liked about this, I can list Dane’s interactions with Cyrus, Dane and Lindsay, Dane, Noah, and the high writing standard (though I was surprised at the number of comma splices the editor let through, and the strange decision to spell the multiple of ‘bus’ as ‘busses’ – a known variant to be sure, but one I’ve never encountered in well over forty years of reading.)

On the non-spoilery bad side of the scale, I would have to say the confusing plot, the introduction of new characters without much explanation, the diversity of POVs which dissipated the emotional impact of the plot far too much, and the treatment of female characters were definitely real downers for me.


[And this is as much spoiler space as you’re getting, guys. After this, you can be sure to find out stuff about the plot.]

On the spoilery bad side…

I wouldn’t have bought this if I had known it would introduce a new sexual partner for Lindsay. Threesomes are really, really tricky little buggers to make work (though this is a V rather than a triangle relationship), and I’ve yet to find one that really did – even my own. But the way this was handled felt particularly off to me – Noah is so bowed down by grief and guilt over the death of his wife in a car accident, that he refuses to let his horribly body be healed fully. Yet as soon as Cyrus ‘gives’ Noah to Lindsay, they start sexing each other up almost immediately. Even though it’s with Dane’s explicit permission, it still felt wrong. This is Noah, by the way, who set Kristen on fire for coming onto him too strong when he was still so griefstricken. The implicit message is that girl touching is slutty, boy touching is healthy and healing and so Noah can want Lindsay like a fat kid wants cake, while Kristen is treated like vermin for having sexual urges at all. I really didn’t care for the nasty jibes sent her way at all. I was really surprised at these authors in particular coming out with this kind of shit.

It gets worse. Dane goes missing, is possibly even dead – and Lindsay is getting blowjobs from and fucking Noah without even a pause to stop and be angry and sad at Dane’s disappearance? There’s a sex scene, another sex scene, a brief pause to say “Oh Cyrus is dead, how sad”, more sex, “Oh Dane is missing, I am sad”, more sex…. It was incredibly jarring. This was not the Lindsay I’d grown to love in the first book. And it wasn’t the Noah we had been given up to that point. Dane is an afterthought for both of them for far too long.

And Noah’s tortured state is cured pretty much “just like that”, as Tommy Cooper would say. One minute he’s crippled and damaged almost beyond repair, refusing help, then he’s fixed…to perfection. Along with, apparently, all his mental issues about his dead wife, which barely intrude after that as he becomes Mr Magical Fixit.

Then there’s the plot – not only is it confusing, it’s basically a rerun of the first book with slight variations. Evil bastards capture the good guys, do hateful things to them, and awesome magic saves the day. Sure, it sets up the third book nicely, and was compelling in its own way, but really, the magical world is so big and awesome, there must be more than one bugaboo to explore?

The individual elements in Trammel have a lot of promise, and taken on their own, are enjoyable. But the mixture doesn’t work for me the way Tatterdemalion did. I’m afraid the authors have only themselves to blame that they set the bar so high the first time around.

I think this will have to be a “suck it and see” experience for readers. I can’t recommend it because I personally didn’t enjoy it much, but I can see that there’s a lot to enjoy. I would certainly read the sequel to Trammel because the world is so fascinating and the authors have set up so many dangling threads, damn them. I just hope that sequel manages to return to the excellence of the first book, and the intensity that Dane and Lindsay’s relationship brought to the story.