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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Author:  Chloe Neill 
Series:  DEVIL'S ISLE 
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—2 
Publisher and Titles:  New American Library (Penguin Random House)
          The Veil (8/2015)
          The Sight (8/16/2016)

This post was revised and updated on 8/7/2016 to include a review of The Sight, the second novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.

                         NOVEL 2: The Sight                         
     The paranormal war that engulfed New Orleans seven years ago is over.  But the battle for the city is just beginning. 

     Claire Connolly is a Sensitive, infected with magic when the Veil that divides humanity from the world beyond fell. Magic can easily consume and destroy a Sensitive, and if Claire’s secret is discovered she’ll be locked into the walled district of Devil’s Isle along with every other Paranormal left in the city. 

     Bounty hunter Liam Quinn discovered Claire’s secret, but refused to turn her in. Together they saved New Orleans from the resurgence of magic that nearly destroyed it. But now a dangerous cult is on the rise, and it will take both Claire and Liam—and magical allies within Devil’s Isle’s towering walls—to defeat the growing threat before magic corrupts the both.

     As the story opens, an anti-Paranormal group that calls itself Reveillon begins to terrorize the Zone. Led by a zealot named Ezekiel, Reveillon is a well-armed hate group that plans to kill all Paranormals along with the humans who refuse to join them in their efforts. Almost immediately, Reveillon attacks the District (aka Devil's Isle) where Paras are imprisoned, and that's just the beginning. The rest of the novel focuses on the Containment's efforts to bring Reveillon under control, with particular emphasis on the adventures of Claire and Liam, and their friends and allies.

     In the background, the relationship between Claire and Liam simmers and sizzles as each yearns for the other, but holds back because of their fears that Claire's Sensitive nature will eventually turn her into a wraith and that Liam will be the one who must lock her up on Devil's Isle.

     In addition to the Reveillon plot, we get more backstory on Liam's brother, Gavin, and on their grandmother, Eleanor, and her Paranormal protector, Moses. We also learn more about Claire's late father and some deep secrets he withheld from her, one of which turns out to be a life-saver.

     The Reveillon story line twists and turns, with Claire and Liam finding themselves in jeopardy several times. In fact, the cliff-hanger endingdirectly caused by Ezekielleaves the couple in serious danger...on more than one level.

     Neill is a terrific story teller, and she does a fantastic job here. This is a rich mythology with well-developed characters and a nicely constructed series story arc. Will Claire and Liam make it as a couple? How will the angel Malachi's interest in Claire affect her relationship with Liam? Will the Containment ever learn to trust the Paranormals? And if they do, how can they get Congress to change its stance on the mandatory imprisonment of all Paranormals and Sensitives? Neill has a lot of material to work with here, so I'm guessing that this series is far from overand that's a good thing! One note: Based on the MeritEthan relationship in CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES and the events of The Sight, I'm guessing that Claire and Liam are in for a long and bumpy ride on the way to their probable HEA.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Sight on the novel's page by clicking on the cover art.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of The Sight is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.

     The series is set in a post-apocalyptic New Orleans seven years after a war between Paranormals (aka Paras) and humans. "Seven years ago, the Veilthe barrier that separated humans from a world of magic we hadn't even known existedwas shattered by the Paranormals who'd lived in what we now called the Beyond. They wanted our world, and they didn't have a problem eradicating us in the process. They spilled through the fracture, bringing death and destructionand changing everything: Magic was now real and measurable and a scientific fact." 

     Eventually, the human world was able to defeat the Paras and repair the rip in the Veila rip that was located directly over New Orleans, making the city ground zero during and after the war. Unfortunately, the heavy use of magic during the fighting devastated much of the South, destroying many buildings and homes and poisoning much of the soil and water. Electrical power is now erratic, and there is no communications systemno cell phones or land phones. When the Veil fluctuates, the level of magic rises, knocking out whatever electrical power there is, including the lights and engines of cars and trucks. (This aspect of the mythology reminds me of Ilona Andrews' KATE DANIELS series.) 

     After the war, Congress passed the so-called Magic Act that banned all magic inside and outside the Zone, or "conflict community." The entire state of Louisiana is within the Zone and is completely under government control. The agency that enforces the Magic Act in the Zone is Containment, one of the units of the Paranormal Combatant Command (PCC), the Defense agency that managed the entire war effort. Containment agents closely monitor the Zone and take into custody anyone they suspect of using magic. Magic users and rogue Paras are imprisoned within the District (aka Devil's Isle), an area in the Fabourg Marigny, an historic New Orleans neighborhood. Containment has surrounded Devil's Isle with thick concrete walls and covered it with an electrified metal web topped by a steel dome. 

     Magic has no effect on most humans, but a small percentage of the populationcalled Sensitiveshave a genetic attraction to magic, and if they absorb too much of it they become mindless, violent, magic-addicted wraiths. Containment is always on the alert for Sensitives, who are also banished to the District, even if they have done nothing wrong. The powers that be believe that all Sensitives will eventually become wraiths, so they see imprisoning the Sensitives as a sensible precaution. The innocent Sensitives, however, don't see it that way, so they hide their condition and keep their heads down.

     In both the Beyond and the human world of New Orleans, there are factions with conflicting beliefs. In the mortal world, Containment leaders believe that all Paras are dangerous enemies who must be imprisoned because they cannot be trusted, even though many Paras served as allies to the human army during the war. Containment hires private contractors to assist in patrolling borders and hunting down Paras and Sensitives, and some of these contractors believe that the government should re-open the Veil and destroy the Beyond once and for all. In addition to these two groups, there are religious cultists who believe that opening the Veil will prompt the Second Coming. 

     In the Beyond, there are two general factions: The Consularis, an assembly of Paranormals, ruled the Beyond peacefully for many millennia. Then, a group calling themselves the Court of Dawn rebelled against the Consularis. When the Court realized that they didn't have enough power to defeat the Consularis, they decided to take over the human world instead and ripped open the Veil. Warriors from the Consularis assisted the human army during the war. In order to amp up their numbers, the Court used magical compulsion to compel thousands of Paras loyal to the Consularis into their service. Now that the Veil has been closed, no one really knows who is in currently in power in the Beyond.

     There is one more groupan extremely diverse onethat is introduced towards the end of book one. I won't describe that one because I don't want to give out any spoilers. 

The primary characters are as follows:

Claire Bridget Connelly is a pretty 24-year-old redhead who has operated her family's storeRoyal Mercantileall by herself since her father died in the war. Claire is a Sensitive.

Gunnar Landreau is one of Claire's best friends. As the series opens, he is second in command to the Commandant of Containment. Gunnar comes from a prominent New Orleans family.

Tadji Dupre is Claire's other BFF. She comes from a family who practiced voodoo before the war, and her mother and aunt are now in hiding. Tadji hates everything about magic. She is currently a graduate student at Tulane University specializing in linguistics. 

Liam Quinn is a 27-year-old bounty hunter (formerly a Containment contractor) from a prominent New Orleans family. His family estate was destroyed during the war, and his sister died at the hands of a wraith. He lived in Marigny before the war and continues to live there nowwithin the District.

Gavin Quinn is Liam's younger brother, a mercenary who hires out his skills as a tracker to various private organizations and government agencies. Gavin has commitment problems and refuses to stay in New Orleans. He comes and goes as he likes, which causes constant friction between the brothers.

Moses (Mo) is a computer-savvy Para who lives in the District. He is a good friend of Liam's. Mo is the first Para Claire has ever met under friendly circumstances.

Will Burke works for the Materiel unit of PCC, which means that he has access to rare consumer goods like good food, furniture, and clothing. As the series opens, he meets, and is attracted to, Tadji.

Jack Broussard is a Containment agent and a narrow-minded bully. He despises Liam because he suspects that Liam sometimes allows Sensitives and Paras to avoid imprisonment. When Broussard sees Claire with Liam, he suspects that she is colluding with him in treasonous activities and reacts accordingly.

     Based on the first novel, my feelings about this series are very positive. The characters are engaging; the overarching story line is engrossing; and the story-telling is top-notch. I believe that this series can grow to be just as successful as Neill's CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES. (Click HERE to read my reviews of that series.)

     Click HERE to watch The Veil book trailer. Click HERE to go to "The Veil Atmospherics" on Pinterest. Click HERE to go to a page on Neill's web site entitled "Louisiana Reads," which provides links to other romance and urban fantasy books and series set in Louisiana. 

     The urban fantasy series that has the most similarities to DEVIL'S ISLE is Suzanne Johnson's terrific SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS series, which also features a feisty heroine, a complicated romance, a post-Katrina-esque setting, and a preternatural realm called the Beyond. Click HERE to read my reviews of Johnson's SENTINELS series. 

                        NOVEL 1:  The Veil                         
     Seven years ago, the Veil that separates us from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil's Isle.

     Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused. 

     Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French QuarterLiam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head. 

     As more and more Sensitives fall prey to their magic, and unleash their hunger on the city, Claire and Liam must work together to save New Orleans, or else the city will burn

     As the story begins, Claire is running the family business, a former antiques shop on Royal Street that now sells dehydrated food (MREs), powdered milk, batteries, water, soap, spare parts, and other survival goods alongside the antiques left over from before the war. When Claire gets a shipment of duct tape, she muses, "The French built New Orleans; duct tape rebuilt it." Claire lives in an apartment above the shop. 

     Not even Claire's best friends know that she is a Sensitive, and if anyone does discover her secret, Claire's "normal" life will end and she will spend the rest of her life imprisoned within Devil's Isle. Claire didn't even know that she was a Sensitive until eight months ago when she stopped a heavy metal sign from falling on her by screaming out "No!" just in the nick of time. Now, she is constantly on edge, keeping a to-go bag hidden away in a closet just in case she accidentally uses her magic within sight of one of the thousands of monitoring cameras mounted all over New Orleans. Claire's motto is "Stay quiet; work hard." No one ever taught Claire to use her magic, so she has no idea how to control it. Now she fears that even if Containment doesn't catch up with her, she'll probably go crazy and turn into a wraithit's only a matter of time.

     Into this situation strolls Liam, who happens to be in Claire's vicinity one night when she gets drawn into a battle with a pair of wraiths and takes a major risk by using her magic to defeat them. Liam now knows her secret, but he doesn't plan to turn her in. Instead, he convinces her that she has to learn to control and discharge the magic she absorbs so that she will keep her sanity and her freedom. To divert Containment's attention, he takes her on as a trainee. As the plot unfolds, the two of them try to discover the connection between two parallel sets of crimes: a series of missing Sensitives and a series of wraith attacks. Compounding the mystery is that these wraiths appear to be sentientsomething that the Containment deems impossible. In the midst of this investigation, Claire learns some shocking facts about her family history and about the role of a small group of Sensitives during the war.

     Because this is the first book in a series with a complex mythology, there is a lot of exposition. Neill has to give us all of the pertinent facts about this world so that we will know the major players and their diverse perspectives. Although the primary story line is resolved, several characters and a few very slender story lines appear and fade away in this book, to be picked up in future books: for example, Liam's broken romance with a woman named Blythe, a Para mob boss named Solomon, and a mysterious woman who catches Claire's eye and then disappears in the midst of the big showdown battle that ends the book. (I think that I know the identity of the mysterious woman, but without any clues, I'm just guessing.) And let's not forget the sexual attraction between Liam and Claire, which Liam refuses to act upon (so far) because he fears that if Claire does eventually become a wraith, he will have be the one to deliver her to Devil's Isle.

     This is a terrific book written by an author who is an excellent world-builder and a creative plotter. Give this one a try. I believe that you will enjoy meeting Claire, Liam, and their friends and enemies. I'm looking forward to more of their adventures in the second book. 

     Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from The Veil on the book's page. Click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

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