Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Author:  Jenna Black
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket
          Dark Descendant (4/2011)
          Deadly Descendant (4/2012)
          "Pros and Cons" (e-novella, 2/2013)
          Rogue Descendant (4/2013)

     This post was revised and updated on 7/23/13 to include reviews of the first novella and the third novel in the series: "Pros and Cons" and Rogue Descendant. Those reviews appear first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and reviews of novels 1 and 2::

          E-Novella: "Pros and Cons"          
     This novella focuses on a case that Nikki solves as part of her human job as head of her own detective agency. She is trying to avoid Anderson, so she uses the case to keep her away from Anderson's mansion as much as possible. The events that take place in this story do not involve the series story arc (i.e., the feud between Anderson's Liberi group and the Olympians), but are more "police procedural" in nature, as Nikki uncovers clues and follows them to the next phase of her investigation.

     Nikki's client is an attractive young woman who wants Nikki to locate a man she met in an upscale bar and with whom she had a one-nighter, with pregnant results. Of course, the woman's story isn't quite that simple or straightforward, and when Nikki unravels the real facts of the case, she finds it necessary to bring in one of her fellow Liberi to assist her.

     The story is well plotted, with details trickling out one by one as events move along to an unpredictable ending. At the moment, the Kindle cost of the novella is just 99 cents, and at that price, it's worth the read. This novella won't work as an introduction to the series because it does not include anything about the series mythology.

          Novel 3:  Rogue Descendant         
     As the story opens, Nikki is still trying to avoid Anderson, because she knows that Anderson wants her to track down Konstantin Galanos so that Anderson can kill him for the rape and 10-year-long imprisonment of his wife, Emma. Unsurprisingly, Konstantin's brutal treatment of Emma turned her into an angry, bitter woman who trusts no one. At the end of the previous book, Emma left Anderson and joined the Olympians, who are now headed by Cyrus, Konstantin's son. 

     The primary story line focuses on a series of actions taken against Nikki and her family by Konstantin, or by Emma, or by someone else—that's the main mystery. First, the home of Nikki's foster parents is burned to the ground, with a follow-up e-mail to Nikki from Konstantin warning her that this is just the beginning. Then more attacks follow, both on Nikki's property and on her person, but this time someone else is implicated. Who is the villain? I have to say that I partially figured it out early on, but that was based on gut instinct, not on any stray clues in the narrative. Black is very good at plotting, and she keeps this one completely under control.

     In a secondary story line, Nikki tries to mend fences with Jamaal, who is still struggling to control his Death God rages. Instead of losing his temper, Jamaal has constructed Sita, a fierce, illusionary tigress who drains his anger, but who is bitingly real when Jamaal brings her to life. Unfortunately, Sita is insanely jealous of Nikki's relationship with Jamaal, and Nikki is not safe when Sita is summoned to the real world. Once again, Nikki and Jamaal almost reach consummation, but then....well, I won't spoil the scene for you. I'll just say that I'm not sure that it will ever happen.

     At this point in the series, Nikki is one of the few who know Anderson's true identity and the powers that come with it, and in this book, she gets to see those powers in action once again. The possibility of a romance between Nikki and Anderson glimmers in the background, but for the moment, she's still very much attracted to Jamaal, and she continues to fear Anderson and his terrible powers.

     This book is a solid addition to a terrific series. Thankfully, the heroine is smart and brave and tends not to have any TSTL moments (what a relief!). The supporting cast is interesting, with a wide variety of back stories and magical powers. I don't recommend this book as a stand alone because of its many references to events in previous books. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

     In this very interesting world, which is set in an alternate Washington, D.C., two rival groups of immortals vie for power. Both groups call themselves Liberi Deorum, which is Latin for "children of the gods" because their ancestors were the gods of various cultures. One groupthe Olympiansbelieve that they are the master race of the Liberi because they accept only Descendants of the Greek gods, whom they believe are far superior to the rest of the theistic panoply. The other Liberi group is much more diverse because it accepts Descendants of the gods of all cultures. 

     Each Liberi is marked with a holographic glyph that represents his or her ancestral god or goddess and can be seen only by another Liberi. Each Liberi also has a unique magical power that corresponds to his or her godly ancestor. The good guys are led by Anderson Kane, a powerful immortal (but not a Liberi) with a mysterious personal history. In the first two books, the haughty Olympians are led by the evil Konstantin Galanos, whose ancestral god is the fiery Helios. In essence, Anderson's group believes that the Liberi should use their supernatural powers to help make the world a better place, while the Olympians believe that they should spend their time purifying the ranks of the Liberi, which to them means purging all Descendants and Liberi who are not Greek in origin. "It had always been the Olympian policy under Konstantin that when they discovered a family of Descendants, they would kill them all, except for children under the age of five, who would be raised to believe in the Olympian ideal—and would later be used as lethal weapons against other Liberi." (Rogue Descendant, p. 18)

     Here is a brief explanation of the history of the Descendants, as explained to our heroine: "A long time ago, when the ancient gods were still around, they had children with mortals. Before the gods left Earth, they gave each of their children a seed from the Tree of Life. This seed made them immortal, and the Liberi thought they were gods themselves as a result. The only limitation they hadas far as they knewwas that they couldn't make their own children immortal....What the first Liberi didn't know until too late was that anyone with even a drop of divine bloodin other words, all their children and Descendants—could steal their immortality by killing them." (Dark Descendant, p. 41) In other words, if a mortal Descendant of the gods steals a seed by killing a Liberi, he or she will achieve immorality by becoming a Liberi. So, a Liberi can be permanently killed only by a Descendant, who then becomes a Liberi. If a human or another Liberi kills a Liberi, the death is only temporary, and the dead Liberi will come back to life. This life-death-resurrection cycle happens to several Liberi, including the heroine, during the course of the series.

     Both the Olympians and Anderson's Liberi are always on the lookout for Descendants and unallied Liberi. The Olympians try to coerce Greek Descendants and Liberi into joining them, but they generally kill the non-Greek ones, whom they believe to be weak and worthless. Anderson's group tries to save all Descendants and Liberi, creating fake personal records to hide them from the Olympians.   

     Jenna Black also writes the MORGAN KINGSLEY series (5 books, UF) and the GUARDIANS OF THE NIGHT series (4 books, SMR), as well as the FAERIEWALKER series for young adults.

          BOOK 1:  Dark Descendant          
     Into this world stumbles our heroine, Nikki Glass, who is a talented private detective with excellent tracking skills. As the story opens, Nikki is in the middle of a case in which her client (Emmitt Cartwright) wants her help in saving his girlfriend from a religious cultor at least that is the story he tells her. One dark and stormy night, Emmitt asks Nikki to meet him at the cult's residence, and she uneasily does so, only to fall into a terrible trap that changes her life forever. Nikki finds herself in the middle of a small group of crazies who claim to be descended from gods and goddesses and who blame her for Emmitt's death. After they brutally beat her up, they throw her in a prison cell, accusing her of being an Olympian spy. Eventually, some of them soften towards Nikki, but by this time she wants no part of them, even after they tell her all about the Descendants and the Liberi and tell her that she is one of them (a Descendant of Artemis) and is now immortal. Oh...and they claim that they are the good guys. Right! Nikki's too smart to believe that!

     After escaping from the Anderson's Liberi, Nikki is soon approached by a strange and unpleasant man who threatens that if she doesn't join the Olympians, they will harm her sister. What's a girl to do? Both sides want her superior tracking skills, and both sides are violent, rude, and cruel, but Nikki knows that she can't keep her sister safe by herself. The rest of the plot involves Nikki's first task for the group she chooses: finding the wife of the group's leader, who has been imprisoned for ten years by the opposition.

     This first book is filled with lots of expositional material. We learn all about the characters we'll be seeing in future books, and we learn the history of both groups. We also look back at Nikki's very sad childhood, in which she was abandoned by her mother and then dumped into a series of foster homes. Finally, Nikki was adopted by the wealthy Glass family and considers Steph Glass as her true sister. Just one discordant note here: Why does Nikki call her adoptive parents Mr. Glass and Mrs. Glass? That seems a bit formal, doesn't it?

     Many of the characters (on both sides) are truly unpleasant. They have lots of power, and they're not shy about using it, particularly on people they don't trust. Even after Nikki saves the day, so to speak, in the climax of the story, they still don't trust her completely. But then again, she doesn't fully trust them either. 

     I love the fresh and inventive world that Black has built here, though some parts are a bit confusing. The whole business about who is immortal and who isn't is not always made clear. And also, how can Anderson's Liberi be considered the good guys since they are immortal (meaning that they took someone else's immortality by killing them)? What's "good" about that? One last nitpick about continuity: At first, Nikki's glyph is on her forehead (p. 39), but then it's on her hand (p. 41). Which is it? Even with those complaints, I did enjoy Dark Descendant and am looking forward to the next book. I believe that I spotted the very beginnings of an attraction between Nikki and her primary nemesis, at least I hope so, because that would be an extremely interesting relationship. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

          BOOK 2:  Deadly Descendant          
     As the second book opens, Nikki is beginning to settle in at Anderson's mansionthe headquarters for his group of Liberi good guys, but she still feels like an outsider. In the first chapter, the Olympian oracle pays a visit the mansion to reveal a vision about a serial killer who is using a pack of dogs (rabid jackals, as it turns out) as a weapon to kill humans. The oracle senses that this is a supernatural murderer and asks for Anderson's help in tracking him downor more specifically, Nikki's help, because of the superior tracking skills that come from Nikki's ancestor, Artemis. As Nikki investigates the case, she is assisted by Jamaal, who spent book 1 trying to kill her because she killed his best friend. As they work together, their relationship warms up—sometimes to a fiery degree. During one attempt to catch the killer, Nikki gets bitten by the jackals and goes through a horrendous life/death/life experience.

     In the meantime back at the mansion, Emma (Anderson's wife) is causing lots of problems. Even though Nikki rescued Emma from her 10-year imprisonment by Konstantin, Emma hates Nikki and accuses her of trying to take Anderson away from her. Emma also fights constantly with her husband about his hesitancy about going after Konstantin for what he and his Olympians did to Emma. The situation between Emma and Nikki gets so bad that Nikki contemplates leaving Anderson's group for good. Emma's character reminds me of Rayseline in Seanan McGuire's OCTOBER DAYE series. Both characters are kidnapped by an enemy, held for a long period of time, and return as jealous and malevolent harridans who do their best to undermine their husbands.

     The two story lines—savage jackals and spiteful wife—are interwoven and are both tied up at the conclusion of the book after the requisite climactic showdown between Nikki and the killer. By the end, Nikki's love life is still a question mark, but now there are now two possible contenders: Jamaal and Anderson. Actually, this book frequently reads more like a paranormal romance than an urban fantasy as it places Nikki into frequent emotionally intimate scenes with both romantic contenders. The action plot isn't quite as strong as the one in book 1, and it sometimes seems rushed and secondary to the romance.

     In general, though, this is a solid follow-up to book 1, and it (thankfully) adds some clarification to the mythology. Regarding the question of just who is immortal: The Liberi are immortal (not the Descendants), which means that the Liberi do not age and they can heal from most wounds and illnesses, but they can be killed if enough violence is used against them. A Descendant who kills a Liberi receives the dead Liberi's seed of immortality. The magical talents of the newly created Liberi are those that come from his or her ancestral god or goddess, not those of the dead Liberi who was the source of the seed. Click HERE to read the prologue and chapter 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment