Tag Archives: Jayné Heller

Review of Killing Rites – Book 4 of The Black Sun’s Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover

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I was very impressed with the story arc running through this urban fantasy series, particularly the doozy of a twist Hanover produced at the end of the last book, see my review of Unclean Spirits, the first book in the series here and my review of Vicious Grace, the third book here.

killingritesJayné Heller is on a mission to uncover and drive out demons who invade and ride humans, taking over their consciousness and causing them to create havoc. However, their last wrenching adventure fractured the tightknit team she’d built to assist her in her quest and now it is just Ex, former priest and prospective lover, who accompanies her on perhaps her most demanding mission of all. The one that might well destroy her…

I’ve taken major liberties with the blurb, because the back cover version is riddled with spoilers and if you’re tempted to start the series at the start (the sensible approach I far too often ignore), then it would be crying shame if you already knew of the gamechanger that occurs at the end of Vicious Grace. So apologies if it sounds rather bland – it’s not the fault of the publisher, it’s entirely my own rather halting effort. Because it’s nothing of the sort. Urban fantasy with kickass heroines are so thick on the ground, you could be wading hip-deep in them and still not come to the end, but this one is really worth reading – ideally in the right order.

Jayné is a convincing, feisty heroine with plenty of fighting skills and a really good reason why a female a fraction of the weight and strength of many of her assailants can prevail. I really like the way in which she has changed and developed from the slightly spoiled, whiny character in the first book to the twitchy, haunted and very dangerous protagonist with something of a short fuse we encounter in this slice of her adventure. Hanover also has ensured the team accompanying her also are equally affected by the fallout – and a number of them simply aren’t around for this particular episode.

It’s really enjoyable to read a series where the consequences bite so deeply – it makes the action far more plausible and I find I care more for Jayné because she doesn’t come Teflon-coated. We get to discover a lot more about Ex, who was always rather mysterious, as he revisits his former comrades and takes Jayné with him to help her dislodge the latest parasitic invasion they have encountered. However, the group have their own issues that unexpectedly pitchfork Jayné into danger. There are a couple of characters who really ping off the page – Ex is one contender. His painful past fully catches up with him here and Hanover does a really good job of filling in the dots by having Jayné watch the interaction between Ex and his former comrades. The other character who thumps off the page and into my head, is Father Chapin. His burning belief, his sense of vocation and his desire to heal Ex had me alternately wanting to shake him till his teeth rattled in between being awed at his fervour and courage.

It’s fairly meaty stuff, though not as gory or unpleasantly graphic as some of my recent reads, which doesn’t lessen the emotional impact. Given the extremity of the situation at the end of Vicious Grace, I was wondering if this book would be something of an anti-climax – it is, after all, a real challenge to follow such a heightened, frightening experience with yet another adventure that can still push all the buttons. But Hanover pulls it off. Another exceptional read.
10/10

Review of Unclean Spirits – Book 1 of The Black Sun’s Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover

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Urban fantasy – constantly being dismissed as by its detractors as an annoying distraction from the real deal – continues going from strength to strength. A sign of healthy popularity in a genre is when authors go on producing intriguing twists to the original template. And that is exactly what Hanover has done in this enjoyable new series. For those of you interested in such things, M.L.N. Hanover is actually Daniel Abraham, he of The Long Price quartet and in yet another authorly incarnation, he has also written Leviathan Wakes as James S.A. Corey.

When college student Jayné Heller’s uncle is murdered, she goes to Denver to settle his estate and mourn the loss of the only member of her family who has always been on her side.  She discovers that her uncle has left her quite a legacy: a string of property across the world, several very full bank accounts – and an extremely unconventional business. It turns out Uncle Eric has been secretly fighting to rid the world of supernatural ‘riders’ – demons, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of other nasty parasites – since before Jayné was born. Now it’s up to Jayné to avenge her uncle’s death, and continue his work – if she can survive her first week on the job.

And that’s the blurb. There’s a lot in this novel that feels comfortably familiar to the dyed-in-the-wuncleanspiritsool fan – a conflicted, isolated heroine with a whole suite of supernatural powers that she somehow stumbles into; a major crisis set in an American city for which she is totally unprepared…  And yet – there are also some important differences that have this series earmarked as One To Watch. Jayné, a 22 year old college dropout, gets guilty after going on a spending spree with her newfound wealth and donates a large portion of her new wardrobe to those more needy than herself. When the fighting first hots up, while she can trade blows with the best of them, lining up a baddie in the cross-hairs and squeezing the trigger is beyond her. I enjoyed the thoughtfulness and real agonising that occurred before our heroine started taking out the opposition. It is refreshing for the inevitable violence to be depicted as a big deal – something intrinsically frightening and to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. And while the mandatory love interest is still there, it isn’t the engine that runs this story – the focus is all about the evil that Jayné and her team have undertaken to eradicate. Yep, she also has a team. Complete with their own issues and personal baggage. No doubt we’ll get to know a lot more about these characters as this series progresses. I’m particularly looking discovering more about Midian, a vampire cursed by the evil Randolph Coin, which makes him – temporarily – one of the good guys.

Which brings me onto the other enjoyable twist to this urban fantasy. Humankind is being preyed upon by demonic presences that invade a body like a parasite – having more in common with threadworms or head lice than the gorgeous fanged hunks that slink through so many other books in this genre. Hanover manages to bring a real sense of tension to this adventure, despite the fact that we know right from the start that Jayné will survive.

Any niggles? Well – of all the names on the planet that Hanover had to choose, Jayné seems the most annoyingly pretentious. Along with our protagonist’s regular whining about the fact that no one pronounces it correctly – why should they, when it simply comes across as a feeble attempt to spice up that solid staple, Jane? Other than this uncharacteristic – and wholly avoidable misstep – this is a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable offering and I am eagerly awaiting the second instalment in the series.
9/10