I consider Dirk and Steele one of my favorite (a tie with Black Dagger Brotherhood) series to read. Marjorie M. Liu has the skill to keep the reader captivated with complex plots, meticulous imagery, and poignant dialogue. There are similar complexity of character development, book plots, and series plots that rival series like Sword of Truth.
In most romance books there are formulas, either implicitly or explicitly specified, as standard practices. For example, halfway through the book is the first sex scene, and again probably before the climax of the book. The relationship peaks in the last sex scene as the protagonists discover their love.
But Ms. Liu doesn’t pen a “typical” romance book. When I first read Tiger Eye, I noted the lack of sex scenes compare to other romances. But after reflection, I realized that I was wholly satisfied with Dela and Hari’s emotional connection. Ms. Liu does not rely on sex to illustrate an emotional bond, but on dialogue and interactions. Don’t get me wrong, the sex scenes are still hot and exciting, but not the main vehicle of describing emotional connections in the relationship.
Another non-stereotypical aspect of this series is the darkness in themes. While this series does have HEA endings, the journey that the main characters travel to get there is often dark and painful. There are moments that I “put the book in the freezer” because I am so stirred by a scene. To be so emotionally involved in a character is a sign of an excellent storyteller.
The basic world
It is difficult to describe this series without giving away some of the series plots. So bear with me as I might say, “mysterious thing #1”…
This world consists of magical beings like shape shifters, magic users, and psychics. The private investigation team of Dirk and Steele is a PI agency that is hired for various missions, such as rescue hostages. One of the jokes in this series is “yeah, yeah we know that it’s a silly name, not a 1970’s TV cop show”. The action is not just focused on American soil, but the setting covers countries around the world. Based on Ms. Liu’s twitter, she travels the world frequently and her personal experience greatly enhances the authenticity of the books.
Dirk and Steele is a cover for their agents, who all have psi-gifts of some sort. These agents have psi-gifts like psychokinesis, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, and psychometry to name a few. Basically, Dirk and Steele is a refuge to use their hidden skills and their differences are accepted. The agency was started long ago by Delilah Reese’s grandparents (William Steele and Nancy Dirk) and is currently run by Yancy (Delilah’s aunt). From Tiger Eyes:
“They found others. None of them did much together, except pat each other on the back and occasionally get married, but when my grandparents took over, all that changed. The organization became an agency. A detective agency of sorts, going by the name of Dirk and Steele.”
Roland runs the west coast wing of the agency in San Francisco and Nancy runs it in New York. The first book, Tiger Eyes brings shape-shifters into their world. In subsequent books we see the two working together. What I love about the Dirk and Steele Series is the connections between books illustrated by the foreshadowing. Ms. Liu is a master storyteller.
In most book series I can just “suggest” you read books in order, but in this case it is really mandatory that you read them in order.
The Books: These MUST be read in order
- [Book 1] Tiger Eye (2005) Main Characters: Hari and Delilah Reese AKA “Dela”
- [Book 2] Shadow Touch (2006) Main Characters: Artur Loginov and Elena Baxter
- [Book 3] The Red Heart of Jade (2006) Main Characters: Dean Campbell and Mirabelle Lee AKA Miri
- [Book 4] Dark Dreamers (2006) [Novella] Main Characters: Charlie Hannelore and Aggie Durand
- [Book 5] Eye of Heaven (2006) Main Characters: Blue Perrineau and Iris McGillis
- [Book 6] Soul Song (2007) Main Characters: M’cal and Kitala Bell
- [Book 7] The Last Twilight (2008) Main Characters: Amiri and Rikki Kinn
- [Book 8] The Wild Road (2008) Main Characters: Lannes Hannelore and Lethe
- [Book 9] The Fire King (2009) Main Characters: Karr and Soria
- [Book 10] In the Dark of Dreams (2010) Main Characters: Perrin and Jenny
- [Book 11] Within the Flames (2011) Main Characters: Eddie and Lyssa