Rating (out of 5): 5 stars
Those who read this blog regularly know I flit back-and-forth between obsessions with urban fantasy titles and paranormal romances. I like darkness and grit. I love sizzling chemistry. And, above all else, I love seeing realistic characters, especially realistic relationships. And — damn — Karina Cooper hits all of the above and more with her first Dark Mission novel, Blood of the Wicked.
In the strictest sense, Blood of the Wicked is a paranormal romance novel, but I was impressed by the urban fantasy elements. The novel is set in New Seattle. Magic caused a great chasm to take much of the original city into the ocean. Instead of moving in-land, they’ve build on top of the ruins (again). What has been created is a physical manifestation of the social class structure. A layer cake where the poor and seedy elements live far underground where light can’t reach, middle class have the center levels (high enough to get a greyish natural light), and the most wealthy live topside in a world of glass and metal. She’s also maintained the ruins of Old Seattle, and diving into that catacomb is dark, nasty and dangerous.
Because witches’ magic is blamed for collapses all over the world, The Mission hunters seek out and kill all witches. Their belief is the magic always corrupts, always leads to evil. And magic is in the blood, so as soon as anyone — man, woman or child — is identified by blood he or she is executed. So, it’s not surprising that Jessie has been on the run her whole life. She does her best to keep the magic locked in, and skips from one strip club bartender gig to another. Her main goal is avoiding attention, but she also has spent years trying to find her little brother Caleb. While Jessie’s gift is to see the present, her brother inherited her mother’s ability to see the future. He gave her premonitions about her death, then left telling her to never look for him.
That was until Silas finds her. He’s a member of the Mission sent to New Seattle to find Caleb. The witch and his coven are killing people. Lots of people, and Silas knows for sure Caleb has killed five already in torturous rituals. His goal is to find Jessie and get her to help him bring in Caleb. He has no idea Jessie is a witch, too. She’ll come along, but only so she can save her brother before the missionaries take him in.
Silas and Jessie have instant attraction to one another, but they both know just how bad of an idea it would be to get together. Jessie knows what he is and that Silas would kill her if he found out she was a witch. She hates his kind and, hell, the bastard wants to kill her brother. Silas, on the other hand, sees Jessie as an innocent girl. He doesn’t want her involved in this and doesn’t want to be putting her in danger. He also doesn’t particularly like lying to her. He knows he’s going to kill Caleb, but paints on the lies to try and keep her help.
These two give into each other physically while still tangled in all the lies. When feelings start to arise they have to make some big decisions. Should they admit the truth? When the truth comes out about them both, will they be able to overcome it? Will Silas kill her if he finds out she’s a witch?
Oddly, the relationship built on lies feels real to me. It’s easy to go into something assuming it’s frivolous. Neither one thought they’d have feelings. Sex wasn’t supposed to matter between them. Just a little fun and then moving on to another city. But once that spark is lit, one has to decide if they want to back up and give themselves fully — including admitting early lies — or cut their losses. Choosing to make yourself vulernable to rejection is hard enough, what happens when that rejection will come with a death sentence?
A beautiful blend of darkness, love and acceptance, Blood of the Wicked goes to the top of my paranormal romance recommendations list. The writing is bone-deep with honesty and the action scenes crackle with tension and fury. Urban fantasy fans, if you’ve been avoiding paranormal romance, now’s the time to put a toe in. You will love this book.
Sexual content: Graphic sex scenes.