The Bottom Line: Perfect for fans of Honor Raconteur and Jason Rose, Tilted Scales: Inhuman Trafficking deftly blends courtroom drama and legal maneuvering with supernatural gangsters, warlocks and spell casters. The Southern Serpent is a heroine that readers won’t easily forget.
Lawyers are often referred to as snakes, but Jayne Hart, known as the Southern Serpent, actually does have scales. Human from the waist up only, Hart slithers around Texas courts representing non-humans, and her reputation, as Hart openly admits, is largely due to her “striking” (pun intended) appearance. She may weigh a half ton or more, but she’s also an intellectual giant.
Jayne has apparently created plenty of enemies in her storied career. Early in the book she survives a violent attack, and not for the first time. Shot 15 times – and by a creature made of living shadows – she survives thanks to a combination of magic and her unique regenerative biology.
Jayne is soon compelled to take a case involving a Yakuza named Taisho Murakami. At first, she understands that Murakami’s organization wants to sue an elf named Glitterleaf for “dangerous exposure to unlawful spellwork.” Jayne soon finds that Glitterleaf is far more than a sloppy spell caster. He’s a trafficker. And if there’s one thing Jayne knows far too much about from personal experience, it’s the world of inhuman trafficking.
In Tilted Scales, author Julian Kindred has created a criminal underworld in which humans and creatures of all varieties are bought, sold and abused. Much of Kindred’s universe resembles ours – courtrooms, massage parlors, vape shops and heavily tattooed gangsters. But there’s also plenty of magic for fantasy thriller fans. As in any first series book, readers will be both challenged and delighted by all the new concepts and creatures Kindred delivers in each chapter.
As heroines go, Jayne is emphatically complex. She and her species are said to be immortal, but it’s something she denies, despite how she miraculously survived a lethal attack without any medical assistance whatsoever. While her physical defenses exist somewhere in the realm of superheroes, Jayne is acutely insecure, which makes her heroics all the more endearing. Her emotional and psychological vulnerabilities make for riveting reading, and her intelligence is a huge asset – even if she herself downplays it.