REVIEW: Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Dear Ms. Brady:
I picked this book up randomly from my pile of paper ARCs. I had no preconception of the story. The ARC had a plain blue paper cover and while it may have had a cover flat attached to it at one time, it was nowhere to be found when I began reading. I was so intrigued by the end of the first chapter, however, that I had a hard time putting the book down to do mundane things. I’m so jaded by paranormals these days, but I’ve not read this story before or encountered this world before. You’ve brought something new and exciting to my reading world.
The setting is alternate universe, modern day Seattle. Kayla has come from the East Coast where life is relatively normal and is shocked to see that the accoutrements of daily living are decaying at a rapid pace. “Seattle might be a six-hour plane ride from Philly, but Kayla felt like she’d traveled halfway around the world to some war-torn, third world country where electricity was rationed. She’d never seen so many old diesel cars or broken traffic lights.” She finds out that the reason for this is that the Gates to the Land of the dead in Seattle is broken and dark spirits are leaking through the gate. The dead are supposed to pass through the gate but the evil spirits refuse to leave. They become wraiths and feed off the living. Seattle has so many wraiths that electricity has become spotty and thus people have turned to gaslights and steam engines for reliable sources of power. The wraiths are a bit like pollution, occluding the air. To see through the Aether and the wraiths, you need a Deadglass (hence the name of the series).
Kayla has come to Seattle to identify the body of her only family left — her sister. Her sister’s body reveals secrets of an unknown pregnancy and strange markings. Determined to find out the cause of her sister’s death leads Kayla to her sister’s dangerous lover and a necklace that two powerful factions in Seattle would kill to recover, the Kivati and the Drekar.
The Kivati are shapechangers, mostly war birds like falcons, eagles, thunderbirds. Their leader is known as the Raven Lord. He keeps his people pure and separate, or at least tries. Other shapeshifters of the lower form, those that creep the earth like a wolf are looked down on. Hart, a wolf, was outcast and never able to fully gain control of his beast. To survive, Hart swore a blood oath to the leader of the Drekar wherein he became the Drekar’s hound, a position he has held for fifteen years.
No one who has sworn a blood oath to the Drekar has every been able to work it off, to gain their own freedom. Bound by the blood oath, Hart has done unspeakable acts and he seeks release. When Norgard, the lead of the Drekar, announces that Hart can finally earn his freedom by obtaining the necklace and delivering Kayla to Norgard, Hart sets off on a determined path, one that he will not turn from no matter how strong Kayla’s pull to him is.
None of the world building is secret, as in other books where authors try to hook the reader by making the unfurling of the world building a suspense. Instead, each part of the world is revealed naturally as Kayla or Hunt encounters it. Kayla’s relative inexperience in the region helps to provide the reader a sense of comfort, as if we are both navigating the waters of the new area together. There are no expansive info dumps yet I never felt confused. The story is shown to us. For instance, we can draw the conclusion that Hart must be color blind because he couldn’t distinguish between the color of two carpets but knew one was red and one was green which is consistent with Hart’s wolf. Later in the book, we learn why Hart swore allegiance to Norgard not because he confesses the reasons but because we see Norgard taking advantage of another young boy, desperate and helpless. We see Hart in that boy and it is far more powerful when viewed through Hart’s angered lens than hearing Hart bemoan his past bad decisions.
The myths are part Norse, part Babylonian, part Native American. The characters could be read of any race. (I envisioned Kayla and her sister as black by their hair coloring, skin, and eyes but they could have also been Native American as well). I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the world building, but the romance is strong and sexy and angst filled. My biggest complaint was the ending. I didn’t feel like I quite had enough setup to buy into what happens to a certain character. It didn’t ruin the book for me by any means, but it seemed too tidy a conclusion. However, I can’t wait for the next Deadglass novel. What a debut. A-