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Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers

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These days, there are a growing number of quality paranormal/urban fantasy writers catering to both the adult and young adult markets.

One of the most prolific and popular is Kelley Armstrong.

After a dozen books in her “Women of the Otherworld” series, Armstrong released The Summoning in 2008, the first in her “Darkest Powers” young adult series. The Awakening followed in 2009, and last month (April 2010) The Reckoning hit the shelves.

The series centres on a group of teenagers who discover they not only have supernatural powers, but that they’ve been genetically engineered.

Without giving too much away, The Summoning provides the set up, The Awakening further develops the characters and the threats they face, and The Reckoning is the big showdown.

The series is definitely big on action, with serious character development kicking in he third book. In fact, The Reckoning is the pay-off for series for fans, on many levels.

The best scenes involve increasingly self-reliant necromancer Chloe (the narrator) and ill-tempered werewolf Derek. Their erratic relationship effectively drives the third book, even more so than the plot developments.

Armstrong is clearly aware how easily a story like this could fall into clichéd territory, and provides a nice variety of twists and inconvenient moments for her characters to avoid that fate.

She also ups the tension in The Reckoning, with more blood, ghosts and zombies than the previous two books combined.



While the third book provides closure on a number of fronts, it definitely leaves plenty of room for future stories.

The “Darkest Powers” series is aimed squarely at teen readers looking for an action-packed paranormal read. I’ve got two novels from the “Otherworld” series waiting on my shelf, and I’m keen to have a read and see how Armstrong delivers her stories when writing for a more adult audience.


Discovering the early work of Lilith Saintcrow

I had a pretty crap day at work today. It reminded me why I like to escape to other worlds occasionally.

Oddly enough, those other worlds are occasionally a tad violent. And yes, I don’t miss the symbolism there 🙂

One such alternate reality is that inhabited by Dante Valentine, the ass-kicking necromancer/bounty hunter creation of Lilith Saintcrow.

Late last year I read – and enjoyed – Lilith Saintcrow’s new YA series, Strange Angels (writing as Lili St Crow), which prompted me to check out her earlier work, targeted at adults.

First up is the dark fantasy Dante Valentine series. I recently finished Working for the Devil, and am now tracking down the other four books in the series.

It’s somewhat of a futuristic sci-fi/fantasy hybrid, featuring a world with advanced technology fuelled by magic. It’s dark, bleak and neon-lit, often reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s classic film Bladerunner.

Dante’s society has experienced “The Awakening”, and “ psis” – those possessing paranormal skills – now wield the power (political and mystical) within it. It’s a world of necromancers, shamans, skinlins, dirt witches, magi, and plasguns.

Dante is among the most powerful necromancers of her generation. Her life is violent and unpredictable, but it pays the bills.

Then one day, the demon Japhrimel arrives at her door and literally takes her to Hell, where the Devil makes her an offer she can’t refuse: eliminate a renegade demon or die.

Aside from the obvious issue (working for the Devil), Dante has a couple of other problems: she has a bloody history with the target demon, and she doesn’t want Japhrimel as her partner. Dante can barely trust her fellow humans, let alone a servant of Lucifer.

Aside from almost non-stop action, this first book is primarily concerned with the changing relationship dynamic between Dante and Japhrimel. Their antagonistic partnership is at turns entertaining, violent and increasingly intense. It’s far from romantic, but oddly compelling.

Dante is tough, foul-mouthed, angry and self-sufficient, but with enough vulnerability to make her sympathetic, while Japhrimel undergoes a subtle transformation as he spends more time with the necromancer.

Saintcrow sets up a complex mythology (far removed from biblical ideas of Hell and demons), and her narrative voice is strong and engaging. Working for the Devil clearly establishes these character and sets up what should hopefully be an engaging series for those of us looking for escape from the daily grind…