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Monday, February 1, 2016


Author:  Keri Arthur  
Series:  OUTCAST 
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2   
Publisher and Titles:  Signet Select
          City of Light  (1/2016)
          Winter Halo (12/2016)

     The series is set about 100 years after a five-year global war among humans, shifters, and vampires, with the shifters as the winners. After the war, the shifters rebuilt their cities to be vampire proof, setting them on land that was not undermined by vampire tunnels and protecting citizens with massive silver curtain walls and towers of ultraviolet (UV) lights to keep the shadows away. The city in which this series takes place is Central City, which is the home of the middle and upper-class shifters and humans, who have made peace with one another and have united against the vampires and the other supernatural monsters.

     Below Central City is Chaos—"an interconnected mess of metal storage units, old wood, and plastic that was ten stories high and barely five wide." The inhabitants of Chaos have little or no UV protection and must lock themselves away at night to keep from being attacked by the vampires who live in nests in the sewers beneath the city. "The shifters might have claimed victory in the war, but in truth, the only real winners had been the vampires…Their numbers had…grown on the back of the war's high death toll…Though they preferred to dine on the living, they were not averse to digging up the dead." Shifters and humans cannot communicate with vampires because the vamps speak a language no one else understands.

     In addition to vampires, other supernaturals—known as the Others—roam the night and the shadows. The horrific bombing attacks that ended the war had "torn apart the very fabric of the world, creating drifting doorways between this world and the next. These rifts were filled with a magic that not only twisted the essence of the landscape, but also killed anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in their path." The rifts allow various hellish creatures (e.g., demons, monsters, death spirits) to enter this "new and easy hunting ground in the shadows of our world."

     The series heroine can be defined in a few words and numbers: Tiger C5, déchet, lure rank. "Tiger" refers to the fact that a large portion of her DNA comes from a tiger shifter. "Déchet" means that she looks like a human being but was created by human scientists in the Humanoid Development Project in a chemical-filled test tube containing  shifter and vampire DNA. ("Déchet" is a French word mea+ning waste product—something that is thrown away, or outcast.) "Lure" means that she was created and trained to be a sexual lure—a spy who learned secrets during sexual assignations with the enemy. Other types of déchet were created to be assassins and front-line soldiers. The déchet soldiers had no human DNA, just shifter and vampire. The DNA mix allows Tiger to be a body shifter—to change her appearance completely (size, shape, complexion, hair color, eye color, etc.) She can use either sun or shadows to make herself invisible to most (but not all) people or creatures. In addition to having enhanced speed and strength, immunity to poisons, and speedy healing skills, Tiger seems to be immortal—or, at the least, very long-lived. She can also communicate with ghosts.

     Every since the war ended, Tiger has lived alone in the ruins of a military bunker on the outskirts of Central City—alone, that is, except for the ghosts of hundreds of déchet children and adults who died in that bunker in the final hours of the war. As the sole survivor of the bombs and the final deadly gas attack, Tiger is the last déchet in existence. The victors brutally hacked apart all of the other déchet in the final days of the war, even though the shifters (falsely) promised the few surviving déchet clemency if they surrendered. The shifters despised the déchet because the déchet soldeirs were ordered by their human commanders to murder shifters—both soldiers and civilians—in horrifying ways. The human scientists created déchet soldiers and assassins with no souls—no emotional centers—so they did exactly what they were told to do, even if it meant murdering infants and children. In the years since the war ended, history has been rewritten to hide the atrocities perpetrated by the shifters and to highlight and to exaggerate the atrocities committed by the déchet. The current population knows few real facts about the déchet. They think of them all as soulless, mindless killers who must be destroyed at any cost.

                              NOVEL 1:  City of Light                               
     They ended the war.
But they started something worse. When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between this world and the next, they allowed entry to the Others—demons, wraiths, and death spirits who turned the shadows into their hunting grounds. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay. 

     As a déchet—a breed of humanoid super-soldiers almost eradicated by the war—Tiger has spent her life in hiding. But when she risks her life to save a little girl on the outskirts of Central City, she discovers that the child is one of many abducted in broad daylight by a wraith-like being—an impossibility with dangerous implications for everyone on earth. Because if the light is no longer enough to protect them, nowhere is safe. 

     As the story begins, Tiger (aka Tig) hears the sound of a child crying in the woods outside her bunker. Her instinctive need to rescue an innocent drives her to go to the rescue, even though the sun is setting and the vampires will soon be out in force. When Tiger finds the child, she also finds Jonas, a badly injured shifter male. After rescuing them both, she is forced to take them into Chaos to the home of a healer named Nuri, an earth witch who wields powerful magic and who insists that Tiger help them rescue other missing children. Tiger is reluctant to cooperate with these people because when Penny, the rescued child, tells them that Tig is a déchet, they immediately attack her, drug her, and lock her up. Even though she eventually lies convincingly enough to convince them that she is not a déchet, they do not trust her—and vice versa.

     The plot, then, revolves around Tiger's efforts to determine who—or what—is kidnapping these children from Central City in broad daylight without ever being seen, and why these specific children have been targeted. Her search frequently forces her to be accompanied by the surly (but sexy) Jonas, who hates all déchet with a passion and is still not convinced that she is not one of his most dreaded enemies (even after she saves his life—twice). During the course of the investigation, Tiger learns that she is not the only déchet to have survived the war. She also engages in some scenesboth the sexy kind and the fight-to-kill kind—that put me in mind of Riley Jenson at her very best.

     In this series, Keri Arthur has once again found a heroine and a story line that meets or exceeds the standard she set with her excellent RILEY JENSON, GUARDIAN urban fantasy series. If you haven't read that series, you might want to give that a try. Riley is a dhampire enforcer, or Guardian—half werewolf and half vampire—who lives in Melbourne, Australia (where Arthur also lives). The nine books in this series were published between 2006 and 2010. If you read Arthur's DARK ANGELS series, you met Riley as a tangential characterthe best friend of the heroine's mother. Unfortunately, DARK ANGELS never really measured up to the original RILEY JENSON series. 

     I always approach the first book in a series with mixed feelings: anticipation of finding a fresh and inventive mythology and interesting characters, but also dread at having to plow through pages and pages of world-building exposition. In this book, Arthur does a fine job of integrating the world-building into Tiger's first-person narration. She basically treats the reader as someone to whom Tiger is telling her life story, so the world-building flows into the narrative in a natural manner, hardly ever slowing down the pace. Although Arthur doesn't delve very deeply into anyone's life but Tiger's in this first book, we do get a strong first impression of the main supporting characters: Jonas, Nuri, and Sal (an old friend/lover of Tiger's). I like the dystopian, post-apocalyptic aspects of the setting as well as the limited number of supernatural typesjust shifters, vampires, wraiths, and an unnamed evil power. Lately, some of the series I have been reading have had so many types of magical monsters that they overwhelm the plot, but that is not the case here. 

     Tiger is a terrific heroine: a self-sufficient, courageous, intelligent woman who has a deep empathy for children because she feels such deep guilt over having failed to save the lives of the déchet children who died in the bunker alongside her during the final bombing of the war. So far, Jonas has been mostly grim, angry, or inscrutable, but he is definitely going to be Tiger's love interest—once he gets past his rage at her true identity. Despite the fact that Sal has a heart-breaking, ill-omened back-story, he is the star of some very sexy bedroom scenes. Although Nuri is one of the "good guys," she makes a deadly, heartless threat against the ghost children in Tiger's bunker, and she seems all too willing to carry out that threat if Tiger doesn't do exactly as she demands. That means that Tiger is definitely going to have to be very cautious around her. 

     Although some of the conflicts are resolved by the end of the book (in the requisite showdown scene), this is, after all, a series, so a few unresolved story lines extend into the next book. Click HERE to read a GoogleBooks excerpt from City of Light

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

                    NOVEL 2: Winter Halo (due 12/2016)                    
UK cover (US cover
not available at the

time of this posting)
     When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between worlds, they allowed entry to the Others. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay. 

     The humanoid supersoldiers known as the déchet were almost eradicated by the war. Ever since, Tiger has tried to live her life in peace in hiding. But in the wake of her discovery that Central City’s children are being kidnapped and experimented on, Tiger’s conscience won’t let her look the other way. 

     The key to saving them lies within the walls of a pharmaceutical company called Winter Halo. But as Tiger learns more about the facility, her mission is derailed by a complication: Winter Halo’s female security guards are being systematically attacked by an unknown force. 

     Now Tiger must summon all her gifts to stop those responsible for both atrocities—no matter the cost to herself.

My review will be posted as close as possible to the publishing date of this novel.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I loved the Riley Jensen series - glad to see she is back with another good one. I think I will wait on this book until closer to December so I don't have to wait so long.