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Book Review: Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty

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Mur Lafferty's Playing for Keeps is a great, original story that doesn't come along very often. Instead of the cliché storylines in crime solving mysteries, you get one unusual twist after another.

Keepsie owns a bar, has a small circle of friends, and tries to keep her life as normal as possible. That’s a little hard considering she lives in the hero-ridden, villain-infested Seventh City. Battles rage overhead as she walks to work, buildings crumble and property is damaged, by the heroes as much as the villains.

Seventh City is special, its citizens are special, some even have powers – though the powers are not always as special as others. The heroes can fly, control other’s minds, control fire or make their tattoos become real. Still, there are others who have powers, but aren’t considered so special. They are the Third Wavers, they have powers like balancing a bar tray, incredible cooking skills, and the ability to shoot feces from fists. Keepsie is a Third Waver. Her power is passive and considered useless by the heroes. Nothing can be stolen from her. Anything she owns, she keeps.

Keepsie and her friends don’t like the pompous, self righteous heroes. But they can’t really cheer for the villains, can they? Against their will, they are caught up in a finders keepers war between the heroes and villains, where they find out a little more about themselves than they ever thought they would.

I loved the original premise of Playing for Keeps. The characters aren’t heroes, but they’re not anti-heroes either. The identity crisis, along with the unique story, makes for a great read. I just got hung up on the many different characters. There is always an introduction of a new character, but not a long enough one to really remember them. And there are so many I had to keep turning back the pages to remind myself of their powers, and their names. Keeping the characters straight, especially the Third Wavers, is a little frustrating, but working through it they become more familiar as their powers are used.

I don’t know if this was a press release copy or a final finished copy of the book. I hope it was a press release copy, because the grammatical errors in this book are glaring. One person will start a sentence, and another will finish it, all on the same line. I can only hope I received the pre-release version. It was distracting and annoying, chopping up the story and taking away from the exciting flow of things.

The novel's ending leaves it wide, wide open for a sequel. I would have been satisfied if it had just remained one book. But I look forward to the next one, hoping the story is just as original, and hoping for more Third Wavers with powers like smelling a person’s past.

Overall, Playing for Keeps was a fascinating book offering a different take on the increasingly tired superhero/people with powers genre. With shows like Heroes, The 4400, and X-Men, superpowers seem to be less and less original. But Lafferty injects her own brand of powers into this book which makes it a lively and refreshing book to read.

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