Benighted by Kit Whitfield

7 Sep

benightedwhitfieldFavorite Lines: “There were nights when I let no one near me, when I knew that the boys who came to try their luck were just taking an opportunity, and I’d fight them, kick and scratch in a silent battle under the harsh fabric coverings. There were nights when I hadn’t the strength to fight and would reach down, moving my hands fast to get the encounter over with as quickly as I could. There were nights when I’d lie unresisting and close my eyes, slipping my fingers under boys’ clothing in case I might find succor there…Fewer friendships come out of the creches. We do too much to one another within them.” (p. 170-71)

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Lola Galley is one of the few handicapped people in a lyco-filled world. She is a “bareback” who wants more, but has learned from experience exactly what she can expect: prejudice, disdain and pain. She is a public defender for those lunes who roam during full moons and an enforcer. She ensures that the lycanthropic population follow the rules and lock themselves up.

Lola doesn’t get to pick her cases and is not thrilled when she gets the case of a lune who bit her friend’s hand off. Then her friend is killed before his attacker is tried fro the crime beginning a lonely journey to a disturbing answer.

I’ve read reviews of Benighted (Bareback in the UK) for over a year. Nothing prepared me for the despair I felt while reading it. When I turned the final page of the story I felt no sense of resolution, contentment or any other positive emotion. I was depressed and saddened. I’m not even glad that I read the well-written story.

Benighted starts off slow. It is a world that I never imagined, centered around a woman who has seen the worst in life. Lola is a crippled lune who doesn’t connect with people well. As a minority of the population, she is and was placed in appalling situations because the majority of the population believed it was for the best. As a child she was put in the creches to protect her from the humans that transform into animals. As an adult she was told her employer would be the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity. In both instances she had no choice.

Lola is tired and resigned to living in a world where her thoughts and emotions matter little until she begins digging into a case for an alleged killer. During her investigation she stumbles upon another case which forces her to reexamine her opinions on several issues. She also meets and bonds with people only to be disappointed in the end.

One problem I had with Benighted is that the other characters felt stiff. Because the story is told in third person from Lola’s point-of-view the audience is only given her thoughts, feelings and opinions of all the people she interacts with. This makes all the other characters feel one-sided. But it worked to make me sympathize with Lola. I felt drawn to her misery.

Benighted is a grim, urban fantasy. It is not a book that instills happy feelings. It is a book that makes you think about the injustice in the world and forces acknowledgement that not all wrongs are corrected. I know that Ms. Whitfield wants the story to end on a positive note (Light shines in through the windows…It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. P. 516) unfortunately, I felt none of it.

Other reviews can be found at Asking the Wrong Questions, Byftpups and Calico Reaction.

This story isn’t one that you’ll want to read while you eat or immediately following, so before reading Benighted make Potato and Sausage Hash with Moroccan Flavors.

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