Title: The Veil (Amazon Link)
Author: Chloe Neill
Release Date: August 4, 2015.
(Cover art courtesy of New American Library)
I’m going to start this off with a couple of admissions. First, I’ve never read any of Chloe Neill’s other work (there’s a lot of it). Second, my standards in Urban Fantasy were formed by a deep and abiding love for Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might want to stick to my non-Urban Fantasy reviews.
That being said, The Veil makes for some highly enjoyable light reading. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s brain candy of the best sort, with just enough sour to emphasize the sweet, and plenty of fluff. The style lends itself to a bit of cliche – especially given that it’s written in first-person – but Neill does a solid job of balancing genre staples with a subtle conspiratorial nudge and wink to the reader. What’s most impressive is her world-building, which is a must when it comes to the establishing book in a series (this one is already billed as the first in the Devil’s Isle series). I love what she’s done in exploring the different degrees of pariah that result from devastating conflict, and the way all of it fits into a five day window within the storyline.
There are great underlying conflicts, strong motivations, multi-dimensional sympathetic bad buys, and a solid dose of old fashioned self-serving humanity all simmering away as the story unfolds. Because as we all know, different is scary; and a person is smart but people are dumb,
In addition to the human(ish) cast of characters, post-war New Orleans serves as a glorious setting for the adventures of main character Claire Connolly. I’m not from NOLA, so can’t provide a local’s insights into how much may have been stereotype as opposed to reality, but it gives all appearances of treating the region’s heritage and strength with the respect that it’s due. Claire is proud of her heritage and community, folding in a lot of allusions to events all readers will be familiar with and using them to provide context for the fictional events that follow.
My biggest criticism for The Veil is that it reads like the pilot for a TV series. It introduces a cast of characters and establishes conflicts with a very conscious eye toward ongoing serial drama. Does it function as a standalone? Technically, yes. But if you’re looking for something with any sense of resolution, this is not one to grab off the shelves.