Synopsis from goodreads.com:
They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its border—but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…
Boston’s demons have been disappearing, and Vicky’s clients are canceling left and right. While fewer demons might seem like a good thing, Vicky suspects foul play. A missing Celtic cauldron from Harvard’s Peabody museum leads her to an unwelcome conclusion: Pryce, her demi-demon cousin and bitter enemy, is trying to regain his full powers.
But Pryce isn’t alone. He’s conjured another, darker villain from Vicky’s past. To stop them from destroying everything she loves, she’ll have to face her own worst fear—in the realm of the dead itself.
My thoughts on the book:
Darklands is an action-packed adventure and makes a wonderful addition to the Deadtown series. Each book in this series gets better, and Darklands is no exception. This novel offers romance, character growth, and, as I said, action. This is one book that you don't want to miss.
As with the other books in the series, romance is not the central focus of Darklands; however, Vicky's relationship with Kane does evolve over the course of this novel. Kane really won me over in this novel, and I was rooting for him and Vicky the entire novel. The main obstacle in their relationship is Vicky's inability to open herself up to him and fully commit. It's interesting to watch them attempt to work through this problem and others while Vicky is in hell trying to save the world yet again.
Vicky grew a ton in this novel, and I really enjoyed watching her learn how to deal with things that have been haunting her for three books. She finally had to deal with the guilt she felt over her father's death, and she had to face her inability to trust and open up to people. She's always had a problem accepting help from others, and it was interesting to watch her learn to humble herself enough to admit she needed help. I'm very pleased with how her character is evolving, and I can't wait to see what she learns next.
Considering Vicky has to go to hell, or the realm of the dead, it's obvious that there will be a lot of action. Holzner does not disappoint in this installment. Even though Vicky's character is changing, she's still the strong, kick ass heroine that we've all grown to know and love. She's just slowly becoming a better version of herself.
Overall, I'd recommend this book (and series) to anyone who loves a good Urban Fantasy story with a romance subplot. The characters are well-developed, the world is captivating, and the action is non-stop. This is a book (and a series) that you won't want to miss!
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The Top Five Lords by Nancy Holzner
In Darklands, the fourth book of my Deadtown urban fantasy series, shapeshifting demon slayer Victory Vaughn travels to the Darklands to prevent her archenemy (and demi-demon cousin) Pryce from regaining his full powers. The Darklands are loosely based on Annwn, the realm of the dead in Welsh mythology. In some legends, Annwn is similar to the Summerland, a place of joy and plenty and eternal youth. In others, though, the realm of the dead is darker. For example, the medieval Welsh poem Cad Goddeu ("The Battle of the Trees"), which tells of a war between a human king and the otherworldly army of Arawn, lord of Annwn, depicts the realm as seething with tortured souls and terrifying, monstrous creatures.
My version of Annwn, the Darklands, falls somewhere between these extremes. The Darklands are not Hell. Demons do not dwell there; in fact, they're barred from the realm, kept in their own region by a high range of mountains well guarded by sentries and enchantment. For most souls, the Darklands are a way station, a place where they go after death to stay for a time before they're regenerated or reborn. Because the ruler of the Darklands, Arawn, has had conflicts with both humans and demons, he keeps the borders sealed. For a human, the only way to enter is to give up your life.
While writing Darklands, I became fascinated by the way different religions and cultures have depicted the place where people go after death. What kind of existence awaits there? Who governs this realm, and what is he or she like? I've compiled this list of five Lords of the Underworld that I found most interesting, scary, or impressive.
5. Anubis, son of Nephthys and Set, was an Egyptian god of the dead. Anubis was associated with mummification, funerals, and tombs. He had the body of a man and the dead of a jackal, an animal associated with cemeteries. But Anubis was a protector, not a scavenger, and was sometimes depicted as sitting by a tomb, guarding its inhabitant. When a body was embalmed in the mummification process, the embalmer often dressed as Anubis. His association with funerals suggests that this god helped souls make the transition from this life to the next. Anubis was also responsible for weighing the hearts of the dead in order to determine whether a soul was worthy to enter his realm.
Even though I can't imagine what it would feel like to literally have my heart weighed, I like the symbolism. Even though I don't know specifically what Anubis was looking for when he weighed someone's heart, I think the image is a good reminder to the living. Would you rather end this life with a heart heavy with guilt and regret and missed opportunities, or would you rather have a light heart full of joy and contentment?
4. Baron Samedi is a loa, or spirit, of the dead in Haitian Vodoun. He wears a top hat on his skull-like head and dresses in a black tuxedo and dark glasses. He loves smoking cigars and drinking (especially rum) and can be something of a womanizer. Because he is a spirit of both death and the life-giving power of sex, believers who are seriously ill will pray to him for healing. When someone dies, Baron Samedi digs the person's grave and greets them after burial. Perhaps because of the amount of time he spends around corpses, he's often depicted with cotton stuffed into his nostrils.
The idea of being welcomed into the next world by a formally dressed spirit with a glass of rum in one hand and a cigar in the other makes the afterlife almost sound like fun!
3. Arawn is one of two lords of Annwn mentioned in Welsh mythology. (The other is Gwynn ap Nudd.) Both are associated with the Wild Hunt, a spectral chase through the night skies involving spirits, horses, and hellhounds. Often the hunt was thought to presage some earthly disaster, such as the plague or the death of any person who witnessed it.
Arawn is more like a human king than the other gods and spirits on this list. He looked like a human, and he exhibited the qualities that people of the time valued in a leader: He was skilled in battle and in hunting, protective of his realm, and generous with gifts to his friends. In the collection of medieval Welsh stories and legends called The Mabinogi, Arawn trades places for a year and a day with the human Pwyll. They become fast friends after Pwyll (a) defeats Arawn's enemy and (b) doesn't seduce Arawn's wife during that time, even though she doesn't know that the man who's taken on her husband's shape is an impostor. You can see why Arawn would appreciate those things.
2. Hades was feared by the ancient Greeks. He represented the finality of death. Everyone was subject to him, and no one but gods or heroes ever returned from his realm. Although Hades was inescapable and could be cruel, he was also considered just, his judgments fair. Those supplicating Hades banged their heads against the ground to make sure he'd hear them. He was associated with black animals—his chariot was pulled by black horses, and people sacrificed black sheep to appease him. Plus he had the helm of Hades, which could make the wearer invisible, and a three-headed dog. Although he was not popular among the other Olympians, those possessions are undeniably cool.
1. They say you've got to give the devil his due, and Satan is considered the most powerful of all the lords of any underworld. His name means "adversary," and his role is to obstruct or plot against the faith that unites humans with God. The story of the beautiful angel of light who rebelled and was cast out of heaven is compelling. His pride makes him arrogant and forever striving to overcome his maker. This fallen angel is evil, cruel, and ruthless, but he can also be charismatic and charming—and that's exactly what makes him so dangerous.
There have been many theories about what people face after they pass over into the next realm, and many ideas about what kind of ruler might reign there. These are just a few. How about you? Do you have a favorite Dark Lord, one who's more compelling or scarier than the rest?
DARKLANDS, the fourth novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her Kickstarter page to find out about her plans for a Deadtown prequel!
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