Allay tends the Den on C bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in order to dine off the anguished emotions of human patrons who drink there though she finds doing that an abomination even though she has somewhat adapted. She is a one of a kind type of demon; as she is a human who ingested the life force of a demon. Her scent signature differs from demons who would all love to feed off her. Allay’s offspring Bliss seems more adjusted than she while her BFF Shock warns her not to trust Theo Ram who has killed his offspring for many millennia. Allay is attracted to Ram.
Being a unique hybrid places her in an odd position of no one trusting her and thus she is the perfect individual to foster an agreement to end the squabble between powerful fighting demons. However, as she works on the place, Allay has some doubts about what is going on. She fears she is being used as an expendable discard and though feeling paranoid as she believes assassins are flooding the streets with her as a target; she goes underground knowing the hostilities is about to explode into open urban warfare.
The second demon urban fantasy (see Confession of a Demon) continues the Manhattan saga of Allay trying to survive in a world where she feels she does not belong. The action-packed story line will hook readers from the onset as the heroine is trapped in a deadly demonic tug of war. Although it pays dividends to read the first exhilarating thriller to better understand key players especially the heroine, a mix of California mellow and New York shtick, Demon Underground is a super tale. Harriet Klausner
Following the cessation of the horrific war between the four colleges of magic (see Chronicles of the Raven: Dawnthief, Noonshade and Nightchild), Balaia survivors struggle to stay alive. Making matters worse during the ordeal is the desecration of the Elven god Yniss Temple has revealed a previously unknown plague Elfsorrow that is further destroyed the already devastated land.
The Raven Mercenaries have no time to rest as they trek to the new continent Calaius, which was the ancient home of the elven. They seek mages to end to the conflict. Others also arrive with plans to plunder the island by stealing magic and mages. At the same time in Balaia, Selik and his Black Wings anti-magic insurgency demands the leaders vow to not use magic as no one any longer trusts in this type of force.
The opening act of the Legends of the Raven fantasy is a terrific complex follow-up to the harrowing war vividly described in the Chronicles of the Raven trilogy as the survivors hope to get on with their lives in the aftermath. The story line is fast-paced even with several major subplots that ties cleverly together. Mindful of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, readers will appreciate James Barclay’s superb thriller as the war is won, yet the peace remains unsteadily unresolved. Harriet Klausner
Bell Bridge Books, $16.95
In Atlanta six foot plus Mohawk wearing Dakota Frost runs the Rogue Unicorn in Little Five Points. She claims to be the best kick-butt magical tattooist in the Southeast. Her clients include witches and shapeshifters as she is a super skindancing tattooist. Dakota hates bloodsuckers like Republicans and vampires; in her mind both rule the world with one more overt about their dining on others.
Atlanta Police department Homicide detective Rand, who is close to Dakota’s father, asks her to come to the station. There he shows her evidence of ripped off human skin with a tattoo on it pinned to a board. Rand asks Dakota questions as to what the magical tattoo does; she says it is the work of Richard Sumner, buried in Cincinnati in 2005. Rand says he needs her help open the case where as the normally offensive amazon just wants to puke as the wood is actually a box containing more epidermis. Obviously a serial killer is murdering the tattooed. She knows if she assists the cops and Feds, she will be drawn away from drinking coffee at gentile outdoor cafes with patrons like witches into the darkest slum of the city; Edgeworld where the nastiest paranormal live amidst the tormented souls.
Although too much of the Francis universe is introduced in the first SKINDANCER urban fantasy, fans will enjoy this terrific paranormal amateur sleuth. In many ways the story line reads like an otherworldly noir starring the latest six foot plus kick butt female tattooist (see Ellie Jasper’s Dark Ink Chronicles and Karen E. Olson’s The Tattoo Shop). Dakota’s take no prisoners’ investigation provides readers with the vivid vision of Anthony Francis’ Atlanta Underground inside an exhilarating thriller. Harriet Klausner