I really enjoyed the author’s Baba Yaga series so I eagerly accepted this one where she again weaves her creative magic in writing an entertaining Urban Fantasy story of witches, dragons, shapeshifters, and dark secretive forces set to tear apart the world. A small band of misfit paranormals takes on the powers that be and the powers that live in the shadows in this paranormal adventure with a hint of romance. It ended on a high, hopeful note that felt more like a new beginning than an end.
The story opens with witch cop, Donata Santori, called to a crime scene to interrogate the dead witnesses. Humans still are adjusting to the fact that they have magic users living amongst them, but Donata’s gift of speaking to the dead is a harder sell than oh say a healer like her sister. But when push comes to shove, she is right where she wants to be earning her own way and making a difference for people.
This murder turns up something disconcerting in regard to a painting that is the main piece of evidence. The restorer who died makes Donata his new crusader in the fight to both render the painting harmless while getting it to give up its secrets before it falls into the wrong hands. The painting is spelled and it will take an expert and specially qualified restorer to work on it. Donata is appalled to discover her new contact also happens to be a half-dragon professional forger who has no idea he has a bit of flame and scale in his family tree.
But between dodging the Cabal and her own paranormal Council, Donata and crew struggle to fulfill their tasks. Donata also is confused about her growing feelings for the forger and the feelings that are fanned back to life by a past lover who joins their rag-tag crew. It was one breathtaking, intense story nearly to the end once everything got going.
Alright, this one sets up like a paranormal murder mystery in the beginning with the author carefully weaving in the worldbuilding and situation for each of the characters. Donata is the sole narrator. She was engaging and wry, tough, but has not wholly come into her own yet. She hopes that by completing the task laid out by the dead man that she will earn the respect of her family and her boss with the police. She is surrounded by characters who in their own ways are just as in limbo as she is and must figure out how to rejoin the world around them and make peace with their past.
As to the romance, like many Urban Fantasies, this one has hints and some ‘moments’, but nothing concrete since the focus is on the quest and not the development of relationships. This story ended leaving things up in the air and a potential love triangle. Normally, I run from those, but not when they are developed organically and not just present to beef up the drama.
The background of this story is strong. I enjoyed the color flavors of creative characters in that the half dragon is slowly learning about himself and the shapeshifter is more blended with Viking Berserker (yum), and there is also a Kobold who is like a short elf who can be a strong support or a dangerous annoyance when riled. Donata’s own witch background is the most filled in. Her spells were intricate and felt authentic when she was weaving and casting them (makes sense with the author’s background). But even the little things like delicious foods, the art connection, and the police politics were all nice layers to the story.
I hope there is more after this story though I loved what I got. I would definitely recommend it to Urban Fantasy fans who enjoy a strong witch heroine and a colorful cast of paranormals supporting her in her mission to protect the world.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for an honest review.