Jenna Black,
Dark Descendant
(Pocket, 2011)

Jenna Black is a fairly young member of the urban fantasy set, a somewhat prolific author who has escaped my attention -- until now.

Dark Descendant, playing a bit off the popularity of the Percy Jackson series, has taken the concept in a markedly different, more mature direction. Her protagonist, Nikki Glass, is a fairly run-of-the-mill private investigator in the Washington, D.C., area until an enigmatic client places himself in her path and she learns, rather abruptly, that she is descended from the Greek goddess Artemis. And she's not alone; there are a fair number of godly descendants in the D.C. area, from the Norse gods ot Tyr and Loki to the Hindu Kali and more. The most powerful -- and arrogant -- group is the Olympians, who are descended from the Greek and Roman gods and believe themselves innately superior to the other lines ... to say nothing of mortals.

Besides a fancy pedigree, Nikki also gains a degree of immortality and some nifty new powers, although her Artemis-given abilities are largely unexplored by the end of this book. Most of Nikki's time is spent trying to evade two godly alliances and, once evasion becomes impractical, decide which offers her the best alternatives and protection -- both for herself and those she loves.

This is assuredly not a Percy Jackson adventure, and Dark Descendant is, perhaps, a little too brutal for younger readers -- particularly when you consider the methods of coercion used on both sides of the playing field. Even the good guys have their negative aspects, which keeps both Nikki and readers guessing at the true motives throughout. Certainly Black is not populating her world with two-dimensional characters, nor are their actions and consequences flat, either. This new series is off to a good start.

book review by
Tom Knapp

16 July 2011

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