Dark Currents: Agent of Hel - Jacqueline Carey 3.5 stars. This was good, and maybe I really should be giving it a full 4 stars, but I'm a huge fan of Ms. Carey's and that's probably making me overly critical.

First of all, Jacqueline Carey does urban fantasy? Yes, please! I enjoy her Kushiel books so much more for her gorgeous prose and her amazing world building, but I was really curious what Dark Currents would be like. I wasn't a big fan of her Santa Olivia series; even though I loved the first book, the sequel Saints Astray just seemed to be missing something. That series has always been a bit of an odd sock, taking place in an urban fantasy setting but without all the urban fantasy elements.

Dark Currents better fits the mold. After reading so much urban fantasy and paranormal romance titles this past year from authors like Jeaniene Frost, Karen Marie Moning, Patricia Briggs and others, I can honestly say Jacqueline Carey's book can stand its own next to any of them. In many ways, it even shines above the rest. Sure, it has its share of vampires and werewolves, but I love book's unique premise and its half-demon protagonist fulfilling her role as an agent of a Norse goddess -- Hel, who presides over an eldritch underworld located in the small Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet. Carey has always been very good at writing fantasy worlds.

Also a little different are the Ghouls/Outcasts in this series. These are not your usual slavering, rotting pop culture ghouls. I thought I'd mention them because they play a big part in this novel, and I really liked the author's unconventional yet intriguing take on it.

Now, for the stuff that didn't really do it for me. Like many books of this genre, the plot of Dark Currents revolves around a mystery, and in this case, Pemkowet authorities are baffled by the suspicious death of a college boy and the supernatural circumstances surrounding it. That in itself wasn't a problem for me, and in fact I got into the story right off the bat and was really looking forward to the characters solving the case.

The problem is, maybe I've read too many fast-paced, action-packed crime and detective novels lately, because I felt the investigation in this book went way too sluggishly. Our protagonist and narrator Daisy Johanssen keeps getting waylaid by so many other problems in her life. I didn't so much mind the detours she had to take which involved her work as an Agent of Hel because I understand it's part of the world building, but I could have done with way less drama from her personal life like her fight with her BFF or the fact she seems to get distracted every time she sees a cute guy. It all adds to her character, but I honestly just wanted to get moving along with solving the crime. On the other hand, maybe it speaks well of the book that the mystery had me so hooked.

Also, I have to say that Jacqueline Carey books are so much more of a joy to read when they're written in the first person. Maybe that was another problem I had with the Santa Olivia series, as I just like it so much more when we're in her characters' heads. However, I have to say that Daisy really got on my nerves with the number of times she says "GAH!" in this book. Daisy is wonderful, but she's definitely no Phedre. But really, who is?