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Monday, April 15, 2013


Author:  J. C.Daniels (Pseudonym for Shiloh Walker)   
Plot Type: Romantic Urban Fantasy (UF)    
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2-3 
Publisher and Titles: Shiloh Walker, Inc.
        "A Stroke of Dumb Luck" (e-novella authored by Shiloh Walker, 2/2011)
        "Bladed Magic" (e-novella, 3/2014)
        Blade Song (9/2012)
        Night Blade (3/2013)
        Broken Blade (1/2014)
        Edged Blade (2/2015)
        Shadowed Blade (e-book, 2/2016)
        "Misery's Way" (Kit Colbana World) (e-novella, 6/2015)

     This is a world in which witches, shifters, vampires, and other supernatural beings live amongst humans. In this mythology, vampires have traditional traits: sun sensitive, night walking, blood sucking, and super strength. The older ones can also fly. These vampires get their power from psychic energy they drain during the biting process. As they age, they gradually lose their souls.

     Shape shifters (aka weres) come in several varieties, primarily wolves, big cats, and rats. Shifters and vamps can be found almost everywhere, but they tend to congregate in a few hot spots, including Indianapolis, Honolulu, Denver, Anchorage, Toronto, and Buffalo. Weres can be either born were or turned by a bite or by unprotected sex. Only about 20-25% of bite/sex-infected humans become weres. The other 70-75% die, except for about 5%, who are immune to the virus.

     The supernaturals are called non-human (NH), and most belong to the Assembly of Non-Humans (ANH), which serves as their governing council. The ANH is headed by elected non-humans, but also includes a few human emissaries "so everybody could pretend we played nice with each other." (Blade Song, Chapter 2) 

     The series heroine is Kitasa (Kit) Colbana, who is a halfbreed aneira. The author gives us this definition: 

aneira [a-nir-a]: derived from Antianeirai, found in the Iliad, warrior women, meaning "those who war like men." Also known as Amazons.
The aneira were once a thriving race, but now they have dwindled to just a few hundred, none of whom live in Orlando, Florida, where Kit lives and works.

     Kit runs her own private investigation service, specializing in tracking down persons and/or things and sometimes handling assassinations. Here, Kit describes her abilities: "I've got a knack for killing and tracking things down. I'm a talented thief, although I try to avoid that line of work, if I can. Luck tends to swing in my favor, although sometimes it's in a very odd manner, but at least I land on my feet...And I have the ability to fade out...I can go invisible. A handy skill for an assassin, I guess." (Blade Song, Chapter 1) Kit also has a magical silver sword that belonged to her mother. That sword comes to her—and only to her—whenever she calls it. She is a skilled fighter 
with both swords and knives, and she is immune to infection by a were. Unfortunately for Kit, she spends much of her time in this book getting beaten, shot, and/or stabbed—or healing from being beaten, shot, and/or stabbed. Some reviewers have compared Kit's character to Kate Daniels, but really, there is no comparison. Kit is far too overwhelmed by emotionally damaging flashbacks and emotional distress to be a strong, independent heroine like Kate.

     Kit had a horrible childhood, having been raised by the human-hating relatives of her mother, who died when she was very young. Kit's 
aneira grandmother forced her to go through regular aneira warrior training, even though she is only half aneira and not nearly as strong as the purebloods who trained with her. Grandma apparently is psychotic in nature, as she whipped Kit regularly, broke her arms, imprisoned her in a pit, and generally made her life miserable until Kit escaped when she was 15. Since then, Kit has been on her own. She received assistance from some witches, but mostly she has made her own way. The horrors of her childhood have never really left her, and she is frequently overcome with visceral memories at highly inopportune times. That, unfortunately, is one of the weakness of this character. It's hard to believe that Kit has been working alone as a successful assassin/tracker/thief all these years when she is crippled so often by flashbacks that stop her in her tracks.

             BOOK 1:  Blade Song             
     As the story opens, Kit is forced into taking a missing persons job for Annette, the sociopathic alpha of the Florida cat clan. It's bad enough that she has to work for the Lady, as Annette is called, but she is required to take on Annette's enforcer, the sexy Damon Lee, as her bodyguard, which means that he is with her 24/7 until she finds Annette's nephew, Doyle, a were-cat who is just approaching the spike—his first change into his animal form. Doyle has disappeared, and Damon hasn't been able to find him anywhere. The action part of the story follows Kit and Damon as they track down leads, gather clues, and eventually confront Doyle's kidnappers.

     The main story line, though, is the romance that develops between Kit and Damon. The two are at each other's throats (sometimes literally) from the moment they meet, but their sarcastic banter isn't the type we usually see between eventual soul mates. Damon comes across as a mean, controlling, abusive, arrogant jerk who repeatedly uses his physical strength and alpha dominance to injure Kit, both physically and emotionally. Then, well into the story, he suddenly starts calling her "Baby Girl" (Ugh!) and becomes her protector and wannabe lover! It all happens way too quickly and without any gradual changeover from their initial hate/hate relationship in which they trade deeply cutting insults—not flirty love/hate insults, but real, hurtful jibes and name-calling. To make things even more unbelievable, Kit—who has been outrageously bullied by this man the entire time she has known him—immediately melts into a gooey puddle of love for him. Sorry, I'm not buying it. Instead of the soul-mate type of love found in many paranormal romances, these weres have a condition called rut, which is defined in this mythology as a physical, emotional, and mental focus that culminates in an eternal commitment between two people. 
     To add to the complications, Kit is being stalked by Jude Whittier, a powerful and scary vampire who wants her for his own. A third of the way through the book, while Kit is still afraid of Damon, she agrees to let Jude bite her so that he can come to her aid if she gets in over her head. That scene just didn't work for me. Kit has always feared and distrusted Jude so when he gives her no real reason for the bite, why would she just let him do it without questioning his motives. This vamp has been invading her dreams for six years, without her permission, and yet she allows him to bite her. (I guess Kit hasn't read much paranormal fiction, or she'd have known better.)

     Despite it's weaknesses, the story moves along quickly, with lots of action. The author can tell a good story; I just wish that the characters were stronger and better developed. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Blade Song.

             BOOK 2:  Night Blade             
     The second book begins four months later. Kit and Damon have settled into their relationship, but are keeping her mate-mark a big secret. Their relationship is actually the center of the primary plot line in this book. After an opening sequence that turns out to have nothing to do with the rest of the book, Kit receives a visit from her old flame, Justin Greaves, who is now an agent for the Bureau of American Non-Human Affairs (aka "Banner"), which is the law enforcement agency that governs non-humans. Justin is investigating the recent murders of several prominent ANH Council bigwigs, and Damon is Banner's prime suspect. Banner is planning to execute Damon within days if Kit can't prove that he is innocent. To prevent Kit from alerting Damon to the investigation, Justin (who is a powerful witch) puts a binding spell on Kit that prevents her from discussing the details of the case with anyone. So...Kit is totally on her own with no possibility of help from anyone, not even the allies who frequently help her out.

     As Kit works hard to clear Damon's name, she (as usual) gets beaten, bitten, and generally worked over by various bad guys. By the end of the book, Kit has been horrifically brutalized by a villain from her past. I won't tell you more because that would be a spoiler. I'll just say that the final half of this book is a real shockerwith relentless agony for our heroine.

     The actions that take place during the plot's finale rely heavily on a single act by Damon that I just couldn't buy into. It's a trust issue, and you'll recognize it when you read it. See what you think. I just didn't believe that Damon would do what the author has him do to his relationship with Kit. (Sorrycan't say any more than that without a spoiler.) 

     I'm still not sure why the first two chapters were included in this book because they tell the story of one of Kit's cases that is totally unconnected to the rest of the book. Kit is hired by the local werewolf alpha to make a grisly delivery to a pack of demented wolves several states away. I'm sure that this incident will be referred to again in a future book, but why use it in this book as the lead story line and then never refer to it again?

     Even with the superfluous early chapters, the character issue with Damon, and the continuing lack of chemistry between the romantic leads, this book tells a compelling storynot pleasant, but fascinating. Like a train wreck or a fire is fascinating. You can't stop yourself from watching even though your stomach is turning over the whole time. This story definitely exemplifies the definition of "gut-wrenching." It's a dark, dark tale, but the author is a good storyteller, and she makes you keep on turning those pages until the bitter end. Click HERE to to read an excerpt from Night Blade.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from the next book, Broken Blade. WarningDon't read this excerpt until after you have read the first two books because it contains a spoiler.

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