The first new Finder story in five years — the previous was Five Crazy Women — takes an exponential step forward in the series. Carla Speed McNeil’s work is more astounding and self-assured than ever in this story of identity and gender.
In an echo back to the original Finder: Sin-Eater, Finder: Voice revisits one of the cross-breed daughters from that story. Rachel resembles her mother, a Llaverac, one of a clan known for its androgynous beauties. As the story opens, she is competing to validate her full membership in the clan. However, one of the requirements is that she presents her inherited ring, which has been stolen from her in a mugging. As she attempts to find the mysterious Jaeger, her mother’s ex-lover, to get his help finding the lost heirloom, she wanders through various levels of the city and its society.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read any of the previous volumes to enjoy this thought-provoking story, although if you have, some mysteries from those earlier books will become clearer here. Carla’s humor is as sharp as ever, with the way the “cat show”, as outsiders refer to the clan parade, satirizes expectations of beauty and conformity. Among other things (many other things), Finder: Voice looks at what appearance means and the effects it has. More, it explores what it means to belong.
Weird as this society could be, with its rules and conventions, I found myself worrying for Rachel, who only wants to gain some acceptance and security for her family the sole way she can. As kids of parents from different tribes, their lives have been hard, although their mother has tried her best to protect them from it. (And heck, having explicit rules might be easier than the unspoken ones we end up living under.)
As always, Carla’s creations make up a complex, fascinating world, between the bits she reveals in throwaway dialogue and her fully realized portraits of the cast members. She provides copious and insightful notes in the back of the book, revealing more of her intent, filling in background, pointing out details the reader likely missed, and acknowledging influences. I’m always left breathless by Finder books because of the immensity of what we aren’t shown and the skill of the story we do get.