Flea Caller

It’s been too long since I wrote a post here, so let’s try to get back on schedule. We’ll start out with a novel I read a couple years back — Flea in the Dark by Devon Stevens.

Our plotline: Teresa Manzano is a pretty typical teenager — she just wants to hang out with her friends, smoke some pot, and not have to deal with her irritating half-sister. Felicia — or as everyone calls her, Flea — is a weirdo, obsessed with insects and scary movies, and she’s too young, and worst of all, Teresa is going to have to babysit her over the weekend when she’d rather be out partying with her friends on the outskirts of Albuquerque.

And even when Teresa drags her out to her party in the country, Flea still manages to get into trouble — kidnapped by La Llorona herself!

What, wait a minute! La Llorona? The horrific Weeping Woman of Mexican folklore? The ghost who prowls rivers and waterways abducting and drowning children? She’s real?! This is way out of Teresa’s league, isn’t it?

Soon enough, Teresa has an encounter with a horrific witch, who grants her the abilities she needs to try to find Flea, and Teresa takes a trip to the secret side of Albuquerque, a constantly shifting city populated by dangerous animal spirits where the architecture of the modern city coexists with long-gone landmarks.

Can Teresa navigate the familiar but bizarrely altered Albuquerque, challenge the spirits blocking her way, and still manage to face off with the most dangerous ghost of all to save her half-sister’s life?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This was Stevens’ first novel, and I very much want to see him publish some more books soon. This book is a thoroughly grand read. We get to watch Teresa make her way back and forth across the ABQ, making friends and enemies among the spirits, and slowly turn herself from a self-centered teenager into someone willing to take colossal risks and make smart sacrifices for the sake of her loved ones — even her irritating half-sister loved ones.

Using a combination of her temporary magical weapons and her own natural guile and sass, Teresa puts the hurt on enemies and makes many desperate, narrow escapes. She’s an unforgettable heroine.

Some of the greatest pleasures in this book are likely the vast collection of great characters, from Teresa and Flea to Teresa’s high school friends all the way to the wild variety of spirits infesting Albuquerque’s spirit realm.

Even minor characters — like the spirit owl reading a newspaper, the pack of playful coyote pups running loose on the bus, the devious mountain lion mayor, and the dancing kachina spirits directing traffic — are interesting and well-realized characters who you wish you could spend more time with.

The book is likely a must-read for anyone who’s lived in Albuquerque or wants to know more about the city. The Duke City is a character in the story just as much as it is a setting, as Teresa criss-crosses back and forth, into and outside of the city limits, and pays visits to well-known local landmarks — as well as old landmarks in Spirit Albuquerque that have been demolished for years.

If you’re looking for a fun novel with fantastic characters and settings with great action and plenty of adventure, you’ll certainly want to pick this one up.

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