Review: Darkness Unmasked

Posted: March 18, 2014 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Keri Arthur, Urban Fantasy

It’s Risa Jones’ fault that the first key to the portal of hell was found and used, and why dark energies are beginning to leach into the world. OK, maybe it’s not all her fault, but she’s convinced that none of it would have happened without her interference. Or her existence.

Guilt, however, doesn’t stop her from continuing her search for the second key with the hopes of keeping it out of the wrong hands. But it seems everyone has their eye on her and are always trying to pull her strings. Such as the vampire council leader Madeline Hunter who makes her investigate the gruesome death of a vampire whose insides were sucked out completely, leaving only a dried-out shell.

At her side is her Aedh protector Azriel, a dark angel and reaper of spirits, who has lately become more to her than merely a bodyguard. Together they sprint around Melbourne, trying to find the husk-leaving demon and the key at the same time. But Risa is young and relatively uneducated in a world filled with old priests, angels, vampires, and demons–how is she going to stay one step ahead of everyone who wants the key?

DARKNESS UNMASKED (Amazon) is the fifth book in Keri Arthur’s Dark Angels series, which is a spin-off from her popular Riley Jensen Guardian series. She’s written plenty of novels and you can tell that she hammered this one out pretty fast (and that in their haste the editor missed a few errors)–but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun novel. Imperfect, but still popcorn-type fun, nonetheless. Arthur has built up a storyline that’s been woven clear from book one and is reaching a feverish pitch with the most recent installment.

Risa is our first-person PoV narrator. She’s got a little bit of a potty mouth but she has a big attitude. For her benefit there’s her demon-sword Amaya, a few magical skills of her own, and plenty of friends who can help out with things she can’t do. Plus there’s the handsome Azriel to keep her alive so she can finish her quest without having to become a martyr. Without all this to back her up, Risa wouldn’t have made it as far as she has. But unfortunately, being who he is can cause trouble for her friends, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. She’s a fun character to read, not overly emo, or unrealistically kick-butt. The side-characters are interesting in their own right if light on the characterization because the story is so lop-sidedly Risa’s.

Arthur tells the story at a breakneck pace–sometimes moving so fast from scene to scene that I barely had time to get my bearings then, wham, the action and Risa and Azriel have whisked off to the next scene of mayhem. While the sequence of events mostly made sense, this breakneck movement and tossing around of seemingly random information was hard for me to track, clear up to the exciting ending. I wonder if maybe this is what ADD feels like.

It's Risa Jones' fault that dark energies are beginning to leach into the world in DARKNESS UNMASKED. New, imaginative, and a great setup.

The setting in Australia is fun for me because most Urban Fantasy I read is set in the U.S. Arthur is obviously familiar with the location and it shows with Risa’s movements around the city, its architecture, and the people who live there. The world of magic, shape-shifters, demons, spirits, witches, sorcerers, and other magical creatures all move around Arthur’s imaginative world with a unique style. It’s rather exciting to explore and experience. Sometimes I’m not clear on what everyone can do magically, which can be frustrating, because I need to understand the limitations Risa is trying to work around. Still, it’s creative.

We get a few revelations (some seemed kinda ‘duh’ moments for me, but whatever) and things change for Risa as she grows more confident in her own abilities. DARKNESS UNMASKED is a great setup for what promises to be the following and final two novels in the series.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Yes, quite a bit actually
  • Violence: Scattered and moderately gory
  • Sex: Frequent scenes with detail, and otherwise plenty of innuendo

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