[Book Review] Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace

idle-ingredients-coverTitle: Idle Ingredients: A Sin du Jour Affair
Matt Wallace (Twitter)
So Freaking Highly Recommended
Genre/Category: Urban Fantasy, Demons & Angels, Food, Politics
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Tor.com


Note: I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of this book from the publisher (but I have also preordered the book on my own). All opinions and thoughts expressed, however drunkenly, in this review are my own. There are also some spoilers for the upcoming book so if that’s not your thing, come back after February 7th when you’ve read the book!

When we last left the Sin du Jour crew at the end of June 2016’s Pride’s Spell, everything was coming up roses. Everyone was alive, the crew got to see an angel in action, and my OTP was finally hooking up (I say as if we’re farther along than halfway through the series…).

So why is it that I found myself making ugly noises before I even finished the first chapter of Idle Ingredients?

Well folks and friendly readers, I made that series of incredibly ugly noises because in the time that has passed both in our world and in the alternate Earth that the Sin du Jour series takes place in, a lot has happened and not all of it is good.

The book opens with my girl Lena working in a diner in Vermont of all places. Miles away from the crew at Sin du Jour and without a sign that she’s spoken to any of her friends. Not even Darren who is practically family.

Lena’s not doing this because she hates them or even because she hates herself (except, who doesn’t, a little bit). Nah, Lena simply can’t handle the things she saw when they were in Los Angeles. She can’t handle how she couldn’t protect the people that she cares about, how close they all came to dying, how Nikki did die, or how she’s sort of expected to just go back to normal when everything’s done.

If I didn’t love Lena before this book, I would (once again) be preparing to marry this fictional character. She’s such a nuanced character and I really do love how Idle Ingredients really captures that. I mean, Matt’s no slouch in the writing department (far from it!!), but there’s something about how Lena comes across in this book that leaves me in even greater awe of his writing.

After Bronko Luck and the aforementioned Nikki show up and drag Lena’s ass back to town, pointing out that she’s safer with them than on her own thanks to the demons that were out to get them, we get to see how things have changed while Lena has been gone.

And a lot has changed.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about the plot because that shit is on point, but the affable Allensworth whose mysterious relationship with Bronko saved their butts a time or two isn’t as friendly as he seems. Dude is into some serious shit and it looks like he wants to have the Sin du Jour crew firmly in hand when it all goes down.

As with Lustlocked‘s “David Bowie is the actual Goblin King” reveal, the fact that Idle Ingredients revolves around an election set to go nasty is pretty timely. The event that drives the plots and subplots of this novella is the crew doing the catering for one of the candidates in the pcoming election for the Sceadu – the shadow government that presides over the supernatural beings behind the scenes.

Allensworth seemingly wants everything to go well and that means hiring a new liaison in the form of the tall, gorgeous, and suspicious Luciana Monrovio who sweeps in like a desert storm and changes basically everything about the day to day operations of the company, including some very shitty personnel changes that involve putting [REDACTED] in the hospital.

Which is why Lena and the rest of the Sin du Jour ladies (but also… Moon) band together to take her [REDACTED] ass down once they realize what’s going on.

The thing about the Sin du Jour series that really makes it stand out, is that the characters may be fighting and couple of them are former military, but they’re not necessarily on the front lines or in the public eye.

We’re dealing with cooks, pastry chefs, and waiters, so we’re seeing what goes on behind the scenes. We’re seeing characters that aren’t archetypal in any way, who aren’t the “Chosen One”. They’re just people who are in a weird place at the right time and who, because of how powerful people tend to overlook anyone that works for a living, have a really interesting view of all the power plays going down.

A lot of Urban Fantasy series, they center on a “Strong Female Character” dripping in unchecked internalized misogyny and serving up some textual T&A for a male gaze that isn’t even guaranteed. Our main characters are necromancer queens, shapeshifters with no sense, and French vampires.

That’s about it.

And that’s boring as hell.

With this newest installment in his Sin du Jour series, Matt continues to blow those other series out of the water, serving up diverse, multifaceted, and fleshed out characters to a hungry audience.

We’re not told that we need to appreciate or even like assholes like Dorsky. He’s just there, doing his thing the way normal assholes work and that’s okay. If Moon well… does anything at all, the characters around (especially if my other fictional wife Cindy is “onscreen”) are just as disgusted with him as we are and they talk this shit out.

This approach works well to suck you into the series because we all know a Lena or a Darren (and we all want to get to know people like Ritter or Cindy *cue terribly lascivious wink*). It’s easy to get invested in their stories and character arcs because they read like real people that you either want to hang out with, or beat the shit out of.

Despite the fact that my OTP seems to be in a state of 8-Ball “Try Again Later” limbo and I want to be a big baby about it, I just need to say that Idle Ingredients also has some awesome relationship-building moments for a bunch of other characters that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. (Also a lot of character building like I loved 90% of these characters before and now I love them even more because they’re even messier people.)

There’s this thing with Cindy, a confession to [REDACTED] – and okay when you get to that moment you will have the FEELS – where I had to put my kindle down and make some even uglier noises because I don’t know what I want to happen. Darren and [REDACTED] are together and Darren and Ritter have a great brotherly friendship that makes me feel all gooey inside.

And bonus: I’m currently in literary love with Jett (which started with Pride’s Spell, honestly, but has continued) because she’s also a badass babe willing to beat the shit out of people to protect the people (and zombies) that she cares about.

(Maybe you can tell that I have a weakness for fictional women who do the most for their friends and found family members…)

Idle Ingredients is an awesome book and a great continuation of the series. It’s darkly funny, full of badass and realistic women getting shit done, and a weird world that feels like it could exist +underneath ours. This book also starts setting the stage for what I think will be some SERIOUS shit (you’ll understand when you read the last two chapters, trust me).

Once again, Matt wrote a great book. Y’all should go read it.