Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel, A Rachel Cross Novel: another Home Run for JL Gaynor

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JL Gaynor’s first novel, Drive, was a wonder debut novel – an outstanding, emotionally compelling story. However, Ascension far surpasses her debut work and places her squarely in competition with other writers of dark urban fantasy series. She does so by clear reverence for mythos, regard for storylines that make sense as continuing series (the sisterhood of the guardianship), and by virtue of a highly compelling manner of world-creation.

Gaynor creates a space in which the reader feels at once comfortable and ill at ease. That is to say, she creates a blend of tension that deftly drives the story from a present world to the world of magic and mystery. The notion of secrets to keep avoids the trappings of potential banality, or the mundane, by creating uniqueness, along with a pace that drives the story. Furthermore, Gaynor creates intrepid characters, fostering their development along both unexpected and unique ways.

As a fan of Dark Urban Fantasies, and especially those written as series, I look forward to JL Gaynor’s next novel. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the next book is even better than this one, as her writing seems to improve with every novel.

Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel : an excellent, highly recommended book.

Review: Dark Wings Descending, by Lesley Davis

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A Good Beach Read, Although Not Much More than a Dark Urban Fantasy Police Procedural

One classic form of dark urban fantasy novel twists the typical police procedural story.   In the twisted form, the police detectives tend to form a special task force whose focus rests on solving crimes of a supernatural nature. The detectives in the unit generally often take on two types: the believer (who may possess some type of magical skill) and the skeptic put in the unit as a form of punishment. Generally, crime investigation revolves around a heinous serial killer, who represents the epitome of evil. What makes this rather formulaic sort of novel compelling rests in portrayal of evil/magic in a unique manner, the skill set of the investigators as dynamic, entertaining, or provocative, and that the plot takes the reader on an unexpected path, despite following a procedural formula.

Getting that teaser on the back cover or in the front synopsis about what may emerge, with all the potential fright, demons, and a glimpse into the psyche of the kick ass detective gives the reader the incentive, the thrill to not just pick up the book, but to dive in and get lost in the plot.   Dark Wings Descending, by Leslie Davis gave just that tease, the promise of an exciting journey into deviant, realms of evil. The lure of having a two female detectives, each with her own connection to the crime, and then, of course, their intersection with one another, made the book an instant grab for this reader.

However, shortly after starting Dark Wings Descending, the formulaic, procedural nature of the plot took control, offering nothing new to the genre.   Adhering to the stereotypical big city (Chicago) police department who has a Deviant Data Unit that investigates criminal behavior, speaks to the norm, rather than a twist. Having the lead inspector as a burn out, returning too early to work after an injury, thus vulnerable, as Det. Rafe Douglas does, has occurred in many other books; along with the standard serial killer who poses bodies. The book simply lacked inspiration, as well as finesse.   Dark Wings Descending offered the reader a plot that was hackneyed, in a genre that is quickly becoming passé because of the overwrought usage of such things.

If one seeks to get lost in a simple plot, procedural, and have a little fun with searching for evil serial killer, then the book will serve that purpose. A quick indulgence of Dark Urban Fantasy reading (because it is fun, isn’t it, to explore the psyche of the killer?), then pick up Dark Wings Descending, by Lesley Davis.   However, for something a bit more provocative, then maybe this may be a pass.

Marie Castle Revitalizes the Lesfic Dark Urban Fantasy Landscape

Marie Castle’s First Novel, Hell’s Belle: Book 1 of the Dark Mirror series

Revitalizes the Dark Urban Fantasy landscape

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Lately, the fantasy landscape, regardless of sub-genre, has become littered with perfunctory, now cliché, devices: the detective agency run by supernatural beings, an individual whose magic is extraordinary for her generation, a council put into place to enforce the laws of magic use, and trips to hell replete with demons.   In her novel, Hell’s Belle, Marie Castle indeed employs these ideas, however, she does so not only in an exceptionally clever manner, but she breaths new life into them.   Perhaps I was drawn to her ability to blend a depth of literary knowledge and re-package it in a non-alienating manner; thereby leaving no reader out of the story.   Blending depth of research into a very accessible story takes a deft hand, and Castle does that well. Yet, Hell’s Belle goes beyond simply having an intellectually disposed author (as most authors have such dispositions in some manner.)   Castle generates interest in the expected by adding to them, creating layers of gray, in a genre where evil is generally obvious and good may be as well.   The first idea that caught my attention was the detective agency, Dark Mirror.   Of course, for this reader, who truly enjoys looking through the glass darkly, the name caught my eye; yet Castle used the allusion delightfully well. She wove the allusion into the main character, Cate Delancey, into her identity, into her core witch. Whether that technique was intentional or not doesn’t matter, for the action sets forth a complexity in Cate Delaney.   The character never transcends her place in the magic-cum- human realm. Castle could easily have left Cate as simply a Guardian of humanity, hence “good” in character, yet she never truly is completely “good” in the traditional way.   Furthermore, Castle extends the notion into the conception of Hell. While Hell has it’s Dante-esque cast, Castle manipulates it such that it can be simultaneously frightening and, contrarily, sexy. There’s more to enjoy in Marie Castle’s debut novel.   Her ability to capture Southern culture is exemplary. While many Southerners fail to capture the nuances of language, disposition, and sensibilities; Castle embraces the essence of the culture without trivializing it, particularly in the familial relationships and interactions with others – politeness, often with a bite.   I enjoyed this book a good deal more than I expected to do, as I am becoming a tad jaded by the over usage of once good ideas. I recommend Hell’s Belle and happily anticipate the rest of the series.