Genre: Urban Fantasy/Assassin
I picked up my copy of "Dark Time", because as soon as I read the book description I went all "Squeee, this must be a fantastic read". Furthermore, the cover has a woman holding "Sais", the weapon Elektra Natchios - my first and favorite assassin- favored in Daredevil's comics and I have always thought the weapons were awe-looking! *g*
It is 1692 and pregnant Susannah Layhem is waiting for her husband Nathan to come back from yet another day's hard work. Her joy is cut short when in the middle of the night, her fellow-villagers come to take her away, because she has been accused of witchcraft - an unforgivable "crime" at that period. Taken from her home and thrown in a dungeon awaiting execution, after her rushed trial - where not even her husband believed in her innocence, she feels rage spring in her heart. She knows that the woman who instigated this, is after her husband and is also desperate for the life of her child.
Neither of their lives is spared and while she is being consumed by the flames, burnt at the stake, Susannah strikes a bargain with Demon Rabishu, who promises her superhuman strength and speed (as well as other skills) enough to get her revenge, in exchange for an eternity of servitude as his personal assassin.
Susannah agrees and in the centuries to come she becomes Maliha Crayne aka "The Black Ghost" - the most feared of assassins, self-healing and ruthless.
Fast forward a few centuries and she is now Marsha Winters, a pulp-crime fiction writer, rich and popular and has also defied Rabishu, after realizing that her victims are not evil people, just nuisances to him. She refuses to cross the line and kill an innocent child and for that Rabishu - bound by the contract he made her sign- reluctantly concedes that there is a way out of her contract, but it would mean her gradually losing all her supernatural gifts and aging disproportionately after each life she saves in order to tip the scale. Let the Dark Time begin...
Review: With an extensive summary like that, you'd think that this is the whole thing. Well, think again, because you are in for an exciting journey.
Yes, Maliha wants to redeem herself and tip the scale, so much that even though she is now mortal, she will risk her life even though dying would mean going straight to Rabishu's hellish, torturous hands as the fine print of her contact states. And for that she helps whoever she can. For the past 50 years she has tried to set things right for as many people as she could making fiercely loyal friends in the process. Friends like Randy, Amaro, Yanmeng and Hound, who prove themselves invaluable to her existence and psyche.
Using what's left of her supernatural gifts, her cunning and looks, Maliha while seeking her next case, stumbles across a threat that could cost millions of lives. A threat in the face of the powerful businessman Greg Shale, whose superficial charitable work masks corruption, a hunger for power and technology aimed at eradicating whole cities for purposes of terrorism and imperialism. Setting her plan in motion, she meets Agent Jake Stackman and mutual attraction ensues. Neither of them acts on it, though, and it just might be Maliha's last chance, as mortals and immortals (sent by Rabishu) alike, hunt her down.
I have to agree that the beginning of the book left me a bit unsure. The sentimental in me wanted to see a little more description regarding her feelings and her torment, her disillusionment when she was accused and imprisoned and not even her husband helped her. Not that it wasn't evident, but I thought that it lacked the length needed to convey it evocatively.
The feeling receded, though, and soon the story picked up and I enjoyed Maliha's dry sarcasm and wit and her bravery in the face of danger. I guess it came naturally to her, as before making her rebellion she was Ageless and immortal, but still, very perilous situations she put herself in just to redeem herself, because if she died (now that she could) she would be forever a slave to the demon.
I thought her interactions with her friends were endearing, because even though she kept them in the dark regarding her true nature (to keep them alive) and made comments about them in her head (which often caused me to giggle), you could sense how devoted she was.
The love interest, Jake, was delicious and quite mysterious (we know there's something hidden in his past)and his actions were totally plausible. I really liked him and I'm eager to find out more about him in the next book.
The fighting scenes were great. I could almost seem them play like a movie in front of my eyes and that was an added appeal to the book.
And, of course, the villains were well-defined and intolerable. You were happy Maliha killed them! :P
Even though, Maliha is hardly a saint herself- on the contrary she has killed hundreds, not caring who they were or whether they had committed a crime- it's hard not to sympathize with a character fighting for redemption, having to overcome obstacles us mere mortals don't have to. We can all relate to her, because we have all done things we are not proud of and try to make them better.
“Master Liu, I was sent to you by Rabishu.”
They stood silently, in the rain. Finally, Susannah pulled back her traveling robe’s hood so that he could see her clearly.
“A woman. The demon sends me a woman to train?” There was scorn in his voice.
Susannah was tired, wet, cold, and hungry. Having scorn heaped on her inflamed her anger, both at the man in front of her and at Rabishu, who had sent her to wander far from home.
He was only ten feet away. She lunged at him, using the speed Rabishu had granted her. Instead of grappling with him, Susannah found herself on the ground, looking up into the falling rain, blinking. She quickly rolled away, came to her feet, and tried again. This time she threw a knife at him.
He casually picked it out of the air and stuck the blade in his thigh. Blood poured down his leg, washed to the ground by the rain. He pulled out the knife and in a smooth motion sent it flying inches from her head to thunk deeply into a tree behind her. She saw that his wound was rapidly closing.
The corner of his mouth curled up in another gesture of scorn. “Did you think you were the only one?”
Verdict: A great start to a new series, packed with action and likable characters you sympathized with. The wit and the banter makes this a very enjoyable book for anyone loving the Urban Fantasy genre and Assassin-related fiction. In short, Maliha kicks butt and you savor it! :P
Rating: 4 stars... Exciting UF with unstoppable action!
I subtract half a star, because that was an eeeevil, eeeevil cliffhanger and also, because in the beginning, there were jumps from one time period to another, without clear indication!!!
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Buy Dark Times on: Amazon // BookDepository
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