Review of Cursed to Death – Book 4 of the Crimson Moon novels by L.A. Banks

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Written by a prolific author, this urban fantasy series joins the queue of other werewolf/vampire novels currently crowding the shelves.

Secret government operative Sasha Trudeau arrives at the scene of a murder, only to discover that a Fae creature has been killed—in a whole new kind of way. What is the meaning behind this mysterious ritualistic killing? What did the victim do to deserve it? Sasha fears that the Vampires and Unseelies have formed an unholy alliance… and they’re ready to unleash their darkest arsenal of magick yet.

Teaming up with her mate and fellow Shadow Wolf Max Hunter, Sasha tries to penetrate the paranormal community for clues. Meanwhile, members of the Wolf Clan are turning against one another as they race to uncover the meaning behind an ancient Unseelie curse. Even Sasha is not immune to this powerful magick, and soon finds herself drawn to a sensual, dangerous dance—one that could cost her life…

cursedtodeathWith the plethora of other books out there covering the same ground, an author has to create some extra twist or angle in order to stand out. Does Banks succeed in doing so? I found Sasha a reasonably well rounded protagonist, but I must confess I didn’t turn the pages because I desperately cared what happened to her. However, I have not read the previous three books in the series, so I probably have missed the plot points designed to bond the reader to the protagonist. The narrative clipped along at a satisfactory pace with plenty going on and Banks certainly knows how to ramp up the tension as the storyline progressed. But for me, the outstanding aspect of this book is the nature of the magical attack. As the title indicates, there is a curse laid on the protagonist and her group of crime fighters which Banks manages to graphically to demonstrate by their erratic behaviour. It is a tightrope. Will the reader get fed up with watching the main characters snarling at one another or struggling to cope with inappropriate feelings of desire, when they should be investigating these terrible crimes?

All too often in supernatural crime novels, I feel that the author loses sight of the unique nature of magical attacks and uses it as a storytelling device in much the same way that they’d use any other villain – like a drug baron, for instance. The books that really make this sub-genre work, are those who demonstrate just how vulnerable we all are to something we cannot see or guard against. The likes of Mike Carey and Jim Butcher brilliantly pull this off. Banks also manages to make the supernatural aspect seem truly threatening – and even animal strength, fangs and accelerated healing powers are not necessarily a sufficient defence.

My grizzles – Sasha is supposed to be embedded in a military chain of command. As the action starts to kick off, I don’t feel that she consults nearly enough with her military superiors in the way a trained soldier would. In addition, there is an implicit assumption that we, the readers are aware of the set-up and familiar with the characters that barely get a mention in this book. It is an ongoing issue with writers of long-running series, how much background information to include that fans of the series will already know. However I don’t think in this case, Banks has got the balance quite right.

In a sub-genre that is often very explicit in the depiction of violence and sex, and regularly interspersed with graphic language to match – it is also worth noting that while Banks makes it quite plain what is going on, there is nothing in here that would make you want to hide this book under the cushion should the young teenager in your life waft into the room. All in all, a polished, accomplished book by a prolific author who clearly knows her trade.
7/10

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