Review: Black Widow Demon by Paula Altenburg

Review: Black Widow Demon by Paula AltenburgBlack Widow Demon by Paula Altenburg

Genres: Dystopian Romance
Published by Entangled Select on November 26, 2013
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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four-half-stars  

The first book in this series was just fantastic with its creative western-style dystopian backdrop, intense plot and complex characters. This one continued where the first one left off and was more of the wonderful same. With the big events that ended the first book, there is a shift in what now poses the threat, but the rest of all the good things this series has going for it are still in place.

Due to how much explanation takes place in the first book and the fact that the current hero was a strong secondary character, I strongly suggest that these books be read in order.

The story opens with retired assassin and former bar owner, Blade, making his way into a forgettable town on the edge of the goddesses’ mountains. He left his former life behind and has decided to chase down the legends of what it is like beyond the mountains. He needs to replenish his supplies and has a strong desire for a nice bath and the opportunity to put on clean clothes after traveling across the desert. Not long after he arrives, Blade witnesses a bit of vigilante justice when the Godseeker of the town is set to burn a female to prove she’s demon spawn. If the fires take her, she’s innocent; if she survives then of course she’ll get the full treatment of being a spawn. Either way, he pities her and has the stray thought to end her misery with a quick death before she is put in the fire.

Raven is terrified and she is angry. Her step-father tried to ravage her and she stabbed him in the thigh out of self-defense. He has her hauled off with accusations that she’s a demon spawn luring in all the men with her wiles. Not one person in town will stand up in her defense even though she has done no harm and was friendly with many of them. Her stepfather knows exactly what she is and his accusations are real, but he is willing to rescind them if she grovels and accepts her fate with him. Not happening especially after he abused her mother before killing her when she was no longer of use to him. Raven has a decision to make. She can perish by keeping her secrets or she can use her demonic heritage to free her. Raven wants to live and she has a plan to escape, kill her step-dad, Justice, and find her friend Creed who can protect her.

Blade is taken by surprise when the little beauty orchestrates her own escape into the night. He should leave well enough alone now that she got away, but he’s curious and has his suspicions. Sure enough, she comes back while the posse is still out looking for her. He watches her over her and it is not long before they join up and he decides to protect her.

Raven and Blade are strongly attracted to each other and act on that attraction all the while trying to avoid attacking demons, staying out of Justice’s clutches, avoiding the Godseekers and Assassins, finding her friend Creed, and fighting off yet another rising danger. The action is non-stop and the tight spots and danger are palpable as is the smoldering relationship that is building between these two reluctant and wounded people who think they don’t have anything to offer in the way of the future together. The noose draws tighter in the end and all parties converge for one big grand finale that some don’t walk away from.

I found this one so engaging from the first pages to the last. The story jumps around amongst a set of narrators that include even Justice the principal villain of the piece. Though the story is predominantly Blade and Raven’s, other characters like Creed get a significant amount of page time too. The switching in narrators was not that hard to follow because of the page breaks, but one does have to pay attention some what.

The backdrop is still this post-apocalyptic world that exists after the goddesses and demons ravaged the world and the poor surviving humans and odd animals are left trying to scratch out a living in an Old Western Frontier-style. Now that the demons are gone, they only seek to return and their conduits are their own half-demon children left behind who are now the targets of the humans to be exterminated. The half-demons are left with various gifts that some are using to do atrocious things. In Raven’s case, she can draw men to her, she can read emotions and sometimes thoughts if she’s touching someone. She can also call up demon fire and transport herself and anyone she’s touching into the neutral ground between the human realm and demon realm. Raven manages to call up the demon who is her father and puts herself in a position of teetering between accepting his tempting offers and doing the right thing no matter how hard.

Now as to the characters, there is Raven who is half demon. Raven is terrified of her demon half even though she is unapologetic about who she is to Blade. She just wants to live free of Justice’s cruel tyranny. She wants to not be hunted and left alone and she has a great capacity to care about others. She goes about with hope and a strong degree of naiveté which skitters on the balance of racing off half-cocked into danger and not thinking through stuff.

And that’s where Blade comes in, he’s lost all hope and he’s full of knowledge and experience with what they’re dealing with. He’s seen and done things that still haunt him. He’s not even sure why he stuck his neck out and helped Raven other than her situation reminds him of himself long ago when he escaped an awful situation and not one person would help him. He is both repelled by her demon traits and attracted to her as a woman. He does not fear her, but fears for her. He can’t seem to get her to understand the true situation. She has her mind set on the fact that if she can just find her friend Creed then Creed will make all better. Blade tries to get her to see reason and he struggles with the idea of turning over her welfare to this Creed even though he feels it’s for the best. He’s a very conflicted, but capable hero.

The romance on this one is a bit hazy in that strong attraction and need flairs up quickly and they give in to it, but with her succubus like powers its hard to distinguish what is real. There is a constant tug of war through the whole story. They do fine with the hot passion, but it was the deeper stuff that I wasn’t so sure about and had them confused about to. I think the time they spent fighting side by side, making decisions and learning to trust were the more subtler clues that more was going on than just lust. It’s not an easy relationship and it does require some patience on the part of the h/h and the reader.

But in the end, I was left pleased with the results and eager for Creed’s story that will finish off the trilogy. The heroes in this series so far have been the kind that just make you believe in them as capable, dangerous, protective men and Creed’s introduction in this one left me with the same impression.

This book/series will have appeal for those who enjoy strong western, post-apocalyptic or action romance stories with plenty of action, danger, intrigue and passion to keep you flipping pages rapidly to the breathtaking endings.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Aw man how have I not read these yet?!!! What a neat world she created. I haven’t read one like that before and love trying new ones. Thanks Sophia!!

    • This was my second series with the dystopian having PNR elements and taking things back to a Western feel. Love them. I can’t wait for the last book in this trio.