A stunning and beautifully dark debut
We all have authors whose books we know we’ll enjoy reading whatever the story is. Bywater Books is the publisher equivalent of that. Whenever I open a book they release, I know I’m in for a treat. I don’t love them all but they’re all exciting and interesting and they all have something. I’m never ever disappointed. And this stunning debut by Virginia Black is definitely not disappointing.
The story hits the ground running and it never slows down. Eight years after she left Calvert, Oregon, to become a war witch, her father’s death brings Joan Matthews back, only to find her hometown about to fall into the hands of a rogue vampire lord. And her ex, Leigh Phan, in her father’s house.
Joan and Leigh are both captivating characters, complicated, flawed, hardened by life yet brave and with the ability to soften the other’s hard edges. The atmosphere, the mood is dark and heavy, flawlessly stifling. Joan’s reluctance, her exhaustion, Leigh’s secrets and terror, their feelings for each other – good and bad – all are palpable, penetrating. My breathing changed with the story, the weight of the events constricting. The story is intricate without being overwhelmingly complex, helped along by a fantastic (and for some terrifying) cast of secondary characters, and the ending is satisfying, leaving no loose ends while keeping the door open for a sequel if the author wants one. The cover is another Ann McMan work of art, the perfect illustration of what the book is about, neither obscure nor revealing too much. 4.5 stars.