Title: The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters: Book One)
Author: G.L. Carriger
Length: 314 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Shifters, Urban Fantasy
At a Glance: The Sumage Solution is a fresh and fun debut in the San Andreas Shifters series.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Max fails everything – magic, relationships, life. So he works for DURPS (the DMV for supernatural creatures) as a sumage, cleaning up other mages’ messes. The job sucks and he’s in no mood to cope with redneck biker werewolves. Unfortunately, there’s something oddly appealing about the huge, muscled Beta visiting his office for processing.
Bryan AKA Biff (yeah, he knows) is gay but he’s not out. There’s a good chance Max might be reason enough to leave the closet, if he can only get the man to go on a date. Everyone knows werewolves hate mages, but Bryan is determined to prove everyone wrong, even the mage in question.
Review: Contemporary San Francisco has been made over. Not only is the City by the Bay now home to werewolves (and one extra gorgeous merman), thanks to the new pack that’s just moved there from the East Coast, but the Bay area is home to kelpie and kitsune, berserkers and barghests, and mages of various stripes—basically, lots of magical creatures and humans. And, while after years of reading shifter fantasy my fear is always that a storyline and its setting will feel stale and uninspired, Carriger manages to keep things fresh and progressive in not only the contemporary urban landscape but in the diversity, humor and warmth she uses to complement some of the weightier elements of Max and Biff’s story. It was easy to believe that the author’s San Francisco could exists and would be the perfect home to such a mixed bag of paranormals.
First off, I loved these guys. Both of them. Max is a sumage—more specifically, a Placer, which is like, if you’re looking at an organizational chart of mages, sumages are the people on the bottom rung of the ladder. A Placer is the dirt the ladder stands on—Placers only wish they were the bottom rung. In other words, Max gets no respect, and he carries his failures with him just as his father intended him to—like psychological scars. His father was horrid, one of those weightier elements I mentioned, and I’ll leave it at that. Horrid. So horrid. Vile and horrid. I’m glad he wasn’t alive even if he still cast such a dark shadow. Okay, leaving it. And Max is a bit of a smartass because of this in that he covers up a lot of the residual hurt from his childhood with sarcasm and snark, but that’s all it is, really, a coverup. And, as it turns out, his past is not the only thing he’s not disclosing.
So, Max works for DURPS, the Department of Unnatural Registration and Processing of Shifters (think the DMV for supes—red tape, paperwork, bureaucracy, and long lines), which is kind of awesome for a guy who doesn’t even need the money. And it’s here that he meets Bryan Ignacio Frederiksen the fourth—Biff for short—which is also kind of awesome just because he’s Biff.
Biff is such a love. He’s the Beta to his younger Alpha brother Alec (he of the merman mate), and as a Beta wolf, Biff is a giant muscular outside wrapped around a sweet and mushy center of tea drinking Zen. I loved him so much. As a Beta he’s got mojo, the kind that makes him sensitive to moods and others’ needs, compelling him to soothe and calm and comfort—he’s a fixer not a fighter. Biff has also only recently admitted to himself that he’s gay, and while he’s not fearful of being rejected by his pack, he also hasn’t come out to Alec yet. When Max trips Biff’s trigger, something that shouldn’t happen because Max ought to stink, and then Max falls instantly and madly in lust with the beautiful hunk of man/wolf muscle sitting across the desk from him, the sexy times begin in earnest. Biff is the werewolf Max didn’t know he wanted but is absolutely the one he needs. Even if Biff causes Max to realize he’s more than he wants to be.
All is not sunshine and roses on their road to romance, not at all. There are a lot of things these two learn about themselves and each other, a must if I’m expected to buy into the soul mate/bonding trope in shifter fantasy—some bad, which causes Max to push Biff away, and causes Biff to hurt (oh, the hurt) because the most excruciatingly awful thing he can imagine, ever, is that he might have hurt Max. Some good things happen too, in that these two men are so perfectly compatible not only in personality but in sense of humor, and, most significant of all, in the revelation of how they reinforce each other supernaturally. In the end, I bought into their pairing full-stop, no questions over whether or not they belonged together or of their happy beginning was believable. They were lock and key; made for each other.
If you’re not familiar with Gail Carriger’s work, one of the things you might appreciate is her sense of humor. There’s a good bit of cheek in this novel, some droll, wacky and absurd fun. Some of the character names are gold. Pure gold. Why wouldn’t a man whose surname is Barker fall for a wolf who rides a Howley, amiright? I wish I could point out some of the other fun little details, but they’re things that should be mined by each reader on their own, so I won’t. There are so many other little details that went into the setting and storyline of this novel which helped to foster that sense of “other” and contributed to its uniqueness, and I love how the issues between Max and Biff weren’t swept under the soul mate rug but were resolved with the help of friends, family, and one pretty special drag queen.
I have Gail Carriger to thank for my deep and abiding love of all things Steampunk. Back in ’09, I ran across a book called Soulless, the first in her Parasol Protectorate series, and that was it. Instant. Infinite. Obsession. The fact she’s decided to crossover into LGBTQ romance with The Sumage Solution not only makes me giddy, but the book is such a fun debut in the San Andreas Shifters series that I’m already anxious to see which wolf will feature as the romantic lead in the next book. My fingers are crossed for Colin; there’s a backstory there that I feel like I need in a big and savior complex sort of way.
You can buy The Sumage Solution here: