Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen

Title: Nightkeepers
Series: Final Prophecy
Author: Jessica Andersen
Read copy: eBook
Published: June 3, 2008
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 1436222087
ISBN-13: 9781436222082

In the first century A.D., Mayan astronomers predicted the world would end on December 21, 2012. Modern scientists say dire solar flames and magnetic fluctuations will all occur on that exact day. In these final years before the End Times, demon creatures of the Mayan underworld—The Makols—have come to earth to trigger the apocalypse. But the Chajinal, descendants of the Mayan warrior-priests, have decided to fight back.

In Nightkeepers, a Makol uses a lost rite known as The Godkeeper to call a demon to earth. During the ritual, a sky god attempts to possess the demon's human sacrifice, a narcotics detective named Leah Ann Daniels. The rite is unsuccessful, but gives Leah magical powers, and strands the god between planes. Warned by a cryptic message from an ally, King Jaguar Striker arrives just in time to save Leah...but is exiled when he breaks Chajinal law. Leah and Striker must bond together to defeat the embodied demon and gain support of the Chajinal army—all before the next solstice, when another demon will try to pass through.

My rating:

When I first read the blurb for this one – a mixture of romance, action, thriller, Mayan history and mythology and a nice end of the world prophecy as the cherry on a cake – I thought that this would be right up my alley…And I wasn’t wrong. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The reader is thrust head-first into the fray right from the beginning and the chills, thrills and suspense don’t falter until the very end.

I don’t particularly like books with too many characters and too many smaller storylines, but trust Jessica Andersen to make it work to her advantage. Usually all those characters vie for the leading spot, bumping into each other in the process, garbling everything up, their stories so entangled it’s rather painful to read and decipher.
Nightkeepers was the complete opposite. The “secondary” characters stories were nicely intertwined with the greater arc, highlighting the main plot and the story between Strike and Leah, giving it depth and that extra touch of realism. Their combined tales amped up the ante, so to speak.

Yeah, the story was gripping – with that added oomph of the end-date 12/21/2012 looming closer – the action riveting, the magic of it all spellbinding etc., but what truly pulled me in were the characters. They were fully developed, well-rounded and real with all their ups and downs, their pluses and their (glaring) flaws.
While usually the authors focus on the female lead’s character, the centerfold of this story was a man, the man. Striking-Jaguar a.k.a. Strike, son of the old king, trying to find his place in this world for himself as a man, a leader, a lover, and a (possible) king. I loved it, how he didn’t have an answer always ready, how his stumbling, his mistakes, his stubbornness, his unwillingness to face the dire possibilities, his fear of failure made him even more real, more approachable, more flesh-and-blood that simple fiction.
And the author didn’t forget about her other characters in the melee, they all had their handicaps and their strengths, their inner demons to battle, their shields and masks to hide behind. This was truly an amazing cast for an amazing story.

The romance was rather subtle – most of the time – but I didn’t pick this one up because of it, though it was a nice bonus. The normal fare of similar-themed books is all about the romance and “let’s cram as much sex as possible in these few days that we have left together” shtick. Well, if you’re looking for that kind of book, give this one a wide berth. Sure, there are some pretty hot scenes, but they’re all in context with what goes on around the characters, never disrupting the (natural) flow of the story. Which is rare and extremely refreshing.
And as in all romances, nothing is simple, even after the clothes come off. There was much nail-biting, tears-flowing, fingers-crossing before the final chapter, where all that was amplified to the max.
Yep, suspense never lessens in this one.

This book was a real pleasure to read, it had absolutely everything I seek in a paranormal/fantasy/thriller/suspense/romance book. The (well-researched) details about history, the Maya and the prophecies are aplenty, but not so much as to make the story appear crammed, but create a (much-needed) background to the plot and the entire arc.

Highly recommended read from this highly satisfied reader. A definite keeper!

P.S. Now, to Dawnkeepers, Nate and his “Hera”.


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