Review: Killing Rites
Over a year ago when Jayné Heller’s uncle died, he left her as his heir. Little did she know at the time that she’d be inheriting the equivalent of a small nation in money and property. Then she spent the next year learning what Uncle Eric really did for a living: he hunted riders, the demons or malevolent spirits that take over human bodies and minds. As a result, not only does she take over his fortune, she takes over his job. She has no idea what she’s really getting into.
After three completely amazing books detailing her adventures (see the list at the end of this post), we now come to KILLING RITES by M.L.N. Hanover (aka Daniel Abraham), and Jayné must now deal with the horrible fallout resulting from the evil defeated in book three–at great sacrifice to her relationships and her own self worth. The bummer is that I can’t tell you much more than that because it would spoil the first three books in the series. The bonus is that you can read these books for yourself and experience your own joy at finding a gem in an over-populated Urban Fantasy genre.
What makes it a gem?
Well, let’s start with the main PoV character herself, Jayné, who’s a great female lead. In her early twenties, she still hasn’t lived a “real life”, but despite her big learning curve she isn’t written with the overbearing emo-chatter some authors think is required when writing about women experiencing difficult circumstances. She feels a responsibility to fulfill the void left by Uncle Eric’s death, and does her best to learn. She’s admirable in that even though she’s in over her head, she still wants to do the right thing. But she realizes she can’t do it alone and finds old compatriots of Eric’s to build herself a cadre to help fight the bad guys. There’s parasitologist Aubrey and his ex-wife Kim, and their messed up past; there’s Chogyi Jake, the guy with a zen-like attitude, who centers Jayné and gives the group focus; there’s Ex, the former priest and talented exorcist; there’s Midian Clark, vampire-like former rider and chef. Then there’s Eric himself, who’s absent, but definitely influences the stories. It’s easy to love these characters in spite of (maybe because of?) their foibles, and focusing on the smaller cast gives us a better view into what makes them tick.
Hanover also develops a well-conceived world of riders. It’s easy to wonder: is everything that black and white? But Jayné thinks that perhaps not all the riders are evil. Fortunately, as the rider hunter she seems more open-minded than most, including Ex, who’s seen first-hand the damage that riders are capable of. All the main characters use magic to an extent (as qi from within themselves) for wards, protections, and as rites to rip rider from human. But a single human’s magic isn’t enough to fight the magical strength of a human with a rider. Readers will enjoy watching the team work around the problems associated with hunting and defeating a rider.
The prose hums with energy. Told from Jayné’s first-person PoV, the books show how she sees the people she works with and comes to love and consider her family, how she deals with the difficulty of the situations–and all of it is realistic and easy to read. Sure she’s got a sarcastic streak, but her personality isn’t overdone. Even better is Hanover’s superior attention to detail, which really helps readers feel in the moment, as we travel from city to city, but also the things you notice just sitting in a restaurant or talking to someone.
But best of all are the stories themselves–even the little sub-plots. KILLING RITES is the natural progression of the series, and Hanover isn’t afraid to take the story in a difficult direction, and he does it with style and subtlety. The fight scenes are easy to visualize and unpredictable and fun. Each book has consistent pacing and well developed plots with mind-blowing endings.
The only thing I’m worried about? How in the world is Hanover going to keep up the rest of the series (anticipated to be a total of ten books) with more amazing novels like these? He’s kept this series consistent and forward moving, building on each book, even when each would do fine as a standalone. That is some serious writing talent (can’t really be surprised with the likes of Abraham). And considering the last page teaser of KILLING RITES, I can’t wait to find out what’s in store.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Strong in some places, otherwise scattered; not for the easily offended
Violence: Fighting riders is never pretty, there’s details and pain, but not excessively gory
Sex: Detailed references and innuendo; previous books have a few detailed scenes, but they don’t distract from the story