When an author takes a lesser known mythology and brings it into modern times giving it her own splash of personality, I am always eager to grab up the story to see where it will take me. Deborah Blake breathed new life into the Baba Yaga tale giving us a lush, exciting book world to get lost in.
“It’s not a name; it’s a title” Baba Yaga explains, but it’s also an attitude. This new Baba Yaga does it with flair. She rolls into a small town of Upstate New York in her silver truck and modern travel trailer with her dragon disguised as dog companion to answer the desperate call of a frightened Russian grandmother believing that the Baba Yaga can find her missing grandchild along with the other children that have gone missing. Upon a swift investigation of the situation, Baba sees that she’s dealing with more than a missing child, but a boatload of trouble of the Otherworldly variety. Unfortunately, she, the mysterious stranger, has become the scapegoat and not even the attractive sheriff can keep her out of trouble- not that she wants his help. Trouble and danger are the spice to her life- and why enjoy it alone…three more strangers roll into town.
As Sheriff Liam McClellan soon learns, the bewitching beauty in leathers and tats straddling her own honey of a bike, has come and turned his world upside down. Liam suffered a personal tragedy that pushed him into dedicating his life to his job. Now he can’t even be satisfied with that because three well-loved children of the town have gone missing and he can’t find any clue to help find them. The grieving parents, the scared and watchful town and the head councilman with his own agenda are all driving him hard, but no harder than he drives himself. He has a sudden and disconcerting ally in the mysterious Dr. Barbara Yager who claims she has leads to the children. Liam is conflicted in that he suspects that she has something to do with the children’s disappearance and knows she is lying about something if not that. Her presence has seemingly whipped the town into frenzy with some even clambering for her arrest or swift departure, but Liam also feels a strong connection to Barbara and believes she is the only one who can help the children. And that was before he learned her secrets.
This plot functioned as the introduction to a new series, but I enjoyed how the author got things moving along pretty well. I was so impressed when I learned this is her first book in print because of the maturity of the writing. Information was released throughout the book instead of dumped all at once and bogging down the actual story. In fact, Baba Yaga had a lovely mysterious quality to her and was the unknown factor to a certain extent for some time. I liked how that worked. She came across as ambivalent at first. Yes, she answered the cry for help, but she has her own rules and different way of looking at the matter. The reader is enchanted with her world of magic and yet her character is drawn in such a way that she engenders some sympathy. Baba is a bit crusty, but its because she never was exposed to the concept of nurture and was always aloof from the world and people around her. Liam comes along and even though he’s a bit broken himself, he is still able to show her how to engage the world and really live. I liked how the author took the time to establish how they fit them together even when they were still dancing around each other a bit. The action side of things was a good strong plot that offered some challenge to the hero and heroine. Their enemies had them backed into corners a few times and it was good to see that stuff wasn’t going to be easy. They had to fight hard for their triumphs. Baba proves her guts and wily-ness and Liam his backbone through the plot.
The worldbuilding, as I mentioned earlier a few times, was great particularly since its rather unique to me. I enjoyed learning all about the Baba Yagas, the three riders that can be summoned, their dragon companions that guard the magical water and gateways to the Otherworld, and of course learning of the Otherworld now populated by the Fae. It was a nice blend of the contemporary with the magical world.
The characters were all likeable to me if not more than moderately drawn in depth. Liam was a good representative of the straight human hero. He’s tough, competent, loyal, tempered and yet vulnerable too. He had his trust destroyed by a woman he loved and so he struggles to reach out to Baba, but I so respected him when he tried to change and took the first step when he was in the wrong.
Liam was easy to read compared to Baba. She was harder because she was confused, not understanding what was happening between her and Liam since she had never been close to love or relationships. This was all new territory and it scared her a lot, but she didn’t make things difficult. The focus of the story was on stopping the enemy and getting the children back, but I loved how the romance didn’t get more complicated than it needed to be. In fact, it just sort of happened and they went with it- in fear and wonder, but no kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth like some romantic pairs with less reason to shy from commitment than these two.
Now, Baba’s former friend with benefits thing did confuse me a bit because it was there and gone so quickly. I’m not complaining that it didn’t interfere with her relationship with Liam, but I felt like it didn’t really have closure as much as it was just swept away tidily. Maybe I read more into it than there was.
The three riders and Chudo-Yudo her dragon disguised as a dog were interesting support characters. I liked what they did to a scene when they were present. You just knew things would happen. I would love my own set of lethal, skilled badboys on bikes at my beck and call like that and a pet dragon? Absolutely. They weren’t really teased out as personalities though Baba’s bio of them gave the reader a bit more insight into their personality, but not their background so much. I assume there will be more on them as the series progresses.
My take is that this was a abso-fab start to a series that has me excited for what is to come. I look forward to meeting the other Baba Yagas and continuing with the Riders and the Otherworld Fae. If we get check-ins with Liam and his Baba, I will not complain. This series has an Urban Fantasy feel to it even if it also has strong Paranormal Romance elements, but that just makes it have a wider appeal. The romance is subdued though and not detailed out move by move. It is being equally balanced with the action. So, I’m recommending this series to those UF/PNR fans who enjoy mythology made-over modern, creative worldbuilding, strong action and engaging characters with a touch of spicy romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.