*Beware of possible Spoilers*
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Verushka
Jenna Black’s title, Dark Descendant grabbed my attention because of the unique nature of the characters – they are, literally, descendants of the Gods, be the gods Kali, Hades, or Zeus. It’s a welcome respite from the vampires and werewolves that usually populate this genre.
Nikki Glass is a private investigator who is tricked by someone she considers a client into killing him and comes into her powers as a descendant of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt, wild animals etc. For the purposes of this book, it is the first, Artemis’ skills as a huntress, a finder of things that brings Nikki into the middle of a fight between two groups of descendants of the Gods, the Liberi Deorum (Children of the Gods in Latin) led by Anderson Kane, whose origins a mystery. They live among humans and just basically go about living their lives, while the other group, the Olympians, led by Konstantin are comprised of purely the descendants of the Greek Gods, and consider themselves the ruling race of all the Liberi on Earth. Descendants of Artemis are rare, for she had only one child, which makes Nikki valuable to both sides.
The premise is fascinating in that it brings a history I don’t often see in urban fantasy novels (maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?) with a wide range of mythology to draw upon. The cast of characters itself are as wide ranging as the Gods they represent and Jenna Black wastes no time in making these characters unique and memorable within the story. It’s my first introduction to her writing and her world building, and she does a fantastic job in the mythology aspect of it. I’ll have to wait until book 2 to see how she furthers this world.
But, the thing that stayed with me long after I finished this book, was that there was a certain coldness to Nikki I couldn’t quite shake. This is a character that still calls her adoptive parents by their last name “Glass” – for reasons in her past, she has never bonded with them, which I can understand, but within the confines of this story, it makes her a very difficult character to know. With her sister, Steph, she comes to life as it were, the best, even if she is jealous of Steph. The beauty of this novel is that Steph is drawn very firmly into the world of the Liberi, and the side that Nikki has chosen, which brings Nikki and that world into a different light – it makes Nikki easy to relate to, and gives the series fabulous potential – how does a normal person deal with being in that world? Steph is a fantastic down to earth character who tries to be a good sister to Nikki, though they are complete opposites.
As mentioned earlier the cast of children of the Gods around Nikki do live up to their name, for instance with Jamaal, a descendant of Kali who is wrecked by the death of his friend Emmit, the Liberi Nikki accidentally kills at the beginning of the book, and which brings her into her own power as a Liberi of Artemis. Being a descendant of a death God makes for a temperamental to pretty much psycho character in the book, admittedly fueled by his grief over Emmit’s death, who as a descendant of Hades was teaching him how to handle himself and everything that comes with being a decedent of a death God. That grief though isn’t an excuse for the violence it drives him to against Nikki, made all the stranger by Nikki’s noting of his physical attractiveness; a lot more than I expected. Don’t get me wrong she gives as good as she gets, but there are uncomfortable scenes within the novel in the beginning that almost made me discard this book. There are explanations built-in within the book, for Jamaal does regain some sense of normality towards the end and is severely punished for his behavior towards Nikki, but Nikki herself is explained away as a bleeding heart, someone who would apologize to the person she just shot in order to save herself. I don’t begrudge Nikki feeling sympathetic towards him in some instances, but I can’t dismiss there is a strangeness to their dynamic with overtures of romance that I am uncomfortable with.
Overall, in a search for urban fantasy beyond the usual, I find myself willing to give the second book in this series a try to see where it goes.