Monday, January 25, 2010

DIK Review: Darkness Calls

Darkness Calls
Marjorie M. Liu
Urban Fantasy
ACE/July 2009
Hunter Kiss/Book 2 (Plus 2 novellas)

From the back cover ~

They are the obsidian shadows of my flesh - tattoos with minds, hearts, and dreams. By day, they protect me. But when night calls to them, they leave my body, dissolving into their true form - as demons…

Nomad born and bred, demon hunter Maxine Kiss has always relied upon herself to fight the darkness that surrounds her, the predators-human, zombie, and otherwise - who threaten the earth. But one man has penetrated her lonely life: Grant, the last of his kind. With music he is able to control any living creature…including demons. And now his life is in danger.

Haunted by the past, determined to change the future, Maxine soon understands that to save Grant, she has only one choice-to lose control, and release her own powers of darkness…

My first DIK Challenge review and my pick is from Aymless' list. I read the first book in this series, The Iron Hunt and enjoyed it so it was easy to choose Darkness Calls. An added bonus - it was already on my tbr pile. :)

First off there is a lot going on in Darkness Calls. Familiar characters along with some new ones are added to the mix. Could it be read w/o first reading The Iron Hunt? Yes... but I would recommend reading the series in order. There are a number of threads going through the story as well as the continuing relationship between Maxine and Grant. IMO, by reading the series in order you get a full view of the world and characters that Liu has created. She does do a good job with catching the reader up with previous events from the past books, so if you have a short memory like me it's easy to get right back into Maxine's world.

Darkness Calls starts off with Maxine and the boys, as Maxine calls them, hunting zombies. The zombies in Maxine's world are demons who take possession of human bodies and it's Maxine's job to exercise the evil demon and save the host. The boys are what you could call Maxine's guardian demons. While they are separate beings they are very much a part of Maxine and who she is. Even when they sleep, she is aware of them.

By day Maxine is covered in tattoos and by night those tattoos become demons that hunt with Maxine and help protect her. If she dies, they die. Unless she has a daughter to take her place. Liu has given these demons very distinct personalities. Zee is the leader of the five and he's the only one who speaks to Maxine. There's Raw and Aaz who I think of as scouts and soldiers. They, along with Zee, take to the shadows, looking for their target. And there's Dek and Mal. They tend to stay close to Maxine. Dek and Mal also like to hum songs that are oddly appropriate to the situation. All of the boys speak "demon" among themselves. They are thousands of years old with intelligence and ruthlessness on their side. They will do whatever it takes to keep her alive.

I shuddered, unable to control myself. It was almost sunset, and I pushed up my sleeve, revealing tattoos that glimmered in the air with strikes of silver light; scales, claws, red, glinting eyes shining like chips of rubies; and though the boys were not yet smoke, they were close, so close that when they surged upon my skin, I saw them ripple; and I knew the men saw, too. I slid a knife over my arm, sharpening the blade. Feeding steel to the boys. Sparks lit the dim air. The men flinched, and choking hunger bubbled up my throat, making my heart break open like the cloud of a burning storm. page 73

I love the visual Liu gives of the moments right before sunset, right before the boys are freed from Maxine's skin.

Maxine isn't the only one with special abilities. Grant Cooperon is a former priest and a man who can save souls with his music. He is also Maxine's lover. They live together at the shelter Grant runs, The Coop. This shelter is different from others because it not only shelters humans but also the occasional zombie. The zombies that come to the shelter come in the hope of being saved by Grant. This doesn't sit well with Maxine, in her mind the demons that inhabit the zombies are to be killed. Period. It's something that she's had to deal with since falling in love with Grant.

I love the way their relationship is evolving. Maxine isn't used to staying in one place but for Grant, she's willing to try. She does feel guilt over this because as far as she knows, she's the only one of her kind. To settle in one place means the other places go unguarded and she was taught to stay on the move, not to form any bonds with anyone. Grant is a complex character that Liu does a good job making him alpha when he needs to be but he never overshadows Maxine. Grant's gift is different in that he heals where Maxine kills. They are an odd couple that work surprisingly well together. It's the respect that they have for each other that makes them believable as a couple.

Throughout the story I found myself fascinated by the way Liu wove the different players into the finale. The different worlds come together for the battle of good vs. evil. Maxine and Grant are not up against everyday demons but against something far more sinister, more evil than anything they have experienced. With help from some unusual sources, they are able to keep from being killed by the big bad that stalks them. What surprised me about the plot is that I had no problem following along. It's complex and told from Maxine's POV so the reader only knows what Maxine knows but it's written well and the logic holds it together. In the end there are still things we don't understand because Maxine doesn't have all the answers yet.

Darkness Calls sets a fast pace with Maxine and Grant sometimes being the hunters, searching for answers, at other times being the hunted. The times when they were able to have a few moments of peace they revealed how strong their love for each other is. How no matter what, it will survive. Overall an exceptional addition to the series. Next up in the series is the novella, Armor of Roses in the anthology Inked, released this month.

Rating: A


  1. I've heard good things about this series but haven't picked it up yet. I think, after reading your review, that I really need to change that. The book sounds so interesting and the whole aspect of the tattoos/demons is so intriguing.


  2. Great review, Leslie. Would you say this series is getting better from book to book? From you review, the book sounds awesome... however, I did buy The Iron Hunt and found it very difficult to get into it... Hmmm, I guess I should give it a second chance, right? :P

  3. Tracy ~ I love Maxine's boys! The way they and Maxine interact is very unique.

    nath ~ I do think it's getting better. The characters are growing & changing, Maxine and Grant especially. I connected with Maxine and the boys pretty quick which made it easy for me to get into the 1st book. Since you have Iron Hunt why not give it another try?

  4. Leslie, I read the introduction to this series in an anthology and it was fascinating. I still remember the "boys" and how creeped out I was over the whole thing. But, I remember loving the premise, the characters and the way Liu set it all up.

    I wasn't reading UF at the time & didn't follow up. Thanks for remindng me of this series and for the review. :)

  5. Hils ~ you think they're creepy, I think they're cool. :)

  6. I'm so going to have to read this series! Great review I think mine might be a bit more scattered LOL

  7. Sarai ~ thanks! I'll be sure to check out your review. :)

  8. Hmmm, I actually have to check if I still have it or if I brought it to the UBS last time... Hmmm.