Sunday, July 3, 2011

Descendants #1: Dark Descendant

Contrary to what the title suggests the book is not that kind of dark - like no demons or witches or anything like that. Read on to find out about Jenna Black's new series Descendants #1 Dark Descendant.

Here is the summary:

From the acclaimed author of the Morgan Kingsley, Exorcist books comes the gripping first novel in a new series about a private eye who discovers, to her surprise, that she’s an immortal huntress. Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . . Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy. But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. . . .
Nikki Glass is a bloodhound in the P.I. business, but her current client is hoping to give her more than a commission. After an accident and near death experience involving her, and her latest employer, strange things start happening. She starts seeing iridescent tattoos on certain people, including herself. Her aim is dead on 100% of the time, and two rival tattooed factions are vying for her time and allegiance. Turns out Nikki is a mortal descendant of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Descendants like Nikki are rare and can become immortal, one of the Liberi. But there's a catch. One that Nikki may never forgive herself for.

I always love that first book in a series where everything is being developed, the world building, story threads, histories, and players. Black doesn't disappoint. The story is fast paced, and set in the D.C. area. There was a lot of background on Nikki that provided a strong foundation on her personality. Glass has to seriously reevaluate her traits and demeanor as her past definition of herself is altered by supernatural revelations. Using a blend of gods from different cultures really lends it's self to more diverse characters. The supporting cast is just as interesting with descendants of Eros, Kali, Loki, and Zeus just to name a few.

I loved the gutsy heroine and her surprisingly deep and charming sister. The Descendents each have different inherited skills from the specific God they descend from. It was fascinating to read about each of them and how they use their gifts in their fight against their deadly rivals. I especially liked how Jenna Black manages to give all the members their own personalities and quirks. Each character has a dark past and not all of the team members like each other. This made them very realistic and added a lot of tension to the story.

What I really like about this book is that at first there are no "good guys." When Nikki first comes up to the house where the Descendants live, she is mortal. The only way an immortal descendant can die, is if a mortal one kills them. Once that kill happens, their immortality gets transferred to the once mortal descendant. I know it is a bit confusing and I was definitely confused in the beginning of the book. But the more you keep reading the more it makes sense. She unknowingly kills Emmitt, and his immortality gets transferred to her. At this point the Descendants think she is working for the Olympians. So they don't trust her. But that is not to say the Descendants are pure innocent. Bad things happen in this book, and even by the end, Nikki still doesn't trust all of the descendants and they all don't trust her.

This isn't the most complex gods and goddesses/mythology-based book I've read this year and yet it's the best, in some part because of it. I loved that there weren't big pockets of infodump and that each Descendant's power was straightforward and related to their god or goddess. It was refreshing that when Nikki became immortal, it didn't come with the Artemis instruction manual. The setup of the two groups is also pretty clear and the reasons they don't get along are spelled out. The Liberi may be the good guys but they're not sunshine and light. 

There were so many things I liked about Nikki in addition to her not being insta-supergirl. She stayed wonderfully suspicious of everyone who wouldn't trust her even if she felt a twinge of conscience when she had to hurt them. I usually feel pretty let down if there's no romance of any kind for my heroine in a book, but I was okay that there wasn't any here. She had a little bit of a connection with the cranky Jamaal that might go somewhere eventually but I also thought she had something twitchy happening with Anderson. In either case I would have thought it weird if anything had happened considering how much distrust there was in the story.

DARK DESCENDANT is a thrilling new urban fantasy with large doses of mythology. Nikki is a terrific heroine; complex, gritty and yet, she still retains her feminism. The world-building is fascinating, the cast of characters eccentric and compelling and the dialogue sharp and entertaining. DARK DESCENDANT grabs you from the first page and holds you in its relentless grip to its exciting ending. Don't miss it! And keep waiting for the next one Deadly Descendant which releases in May 2012.


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