Both Ways by Ileandra YoungBoth Ways by Ileandra Young is a new urban fantasy thrill ride and part of The S.P.E.A.R. Mission Files.

Danika Karson is the best agent SPEAR (the Supernatural Prohibition, Extermination, and Arrest Regiment) has, with the highest capture and kill rate on record. She’s motivated to keep the streets of Angbec safe for humans. Now, however, her skills have attracted the attention of the mayor, and he wants Danika to find his son, and he wants her to do it off the record. With little choice, Danika agrees. She quickly figures out the reason the mayor wants discretion – his 15 year old son is an addict, and he’s been taken by vampires.

With the mayoral election coming up soon, the mayor can’t afford any negative publicity. A rogue vampire attack on the mayor’s competition, who also happens to be the rather handsy date her mother set her up on, leads Danika on an action-packed hunt for the truth behind the strange disappearances going on in her city. Unregistered vampires and nonconsensual blood drinking are illegal in Angbec, rules that Rayne has broken without even knowing that there were alternatives. A newly-turned vampire, fresh from a southern city, she had no idea that there were options that allowed vampires in Angbec to live openly and legally in the human city.

When Danika stops Rayne’s attack on her date, subdues, and arrests her, Rayne is confused, and extremely apologetic. It looks like her life as a vampire will be a short one. But there’s some sort of connection that springs up between Danika and Rayne. And when Danika finds out that Rayne has information about more than just the disappearance of the mayor’s son, the two embark on an investigation that brings them closer to the real danger at the center of this web of plots. With the unregistered yet apologetic vampire by her side, Danika keeps digging deeper into seemingly unrelated events.

But the truth is bigger than Danika can imagine, and she’s going to need all the allies she can find if she wants to survive, much less stop, the hidden supernatural attack the humans of the city don’t even know is coming. Allies that include the vampire she wants to hate, and yet can’t stop kissing.

The Characters

Danika Karson has issues. Yes, she’s a badass SPEAR agent who can face down supernatural creatures without fear. But she can’t force her mother to accept the fact that she’s gay, and to stop setting her up with eligible young men.

Her father’s death from vampires while an agent of SPEAR when she was a child has affected her deeply, and her dedication to carry on his mission overpowers her mother’s and sister’s worry that she’ll end up just like him – dead. It has also resulted in her reputation as the SPEAR agent with the highest kill rate in the agency. A fact that doesn’t impress her supervisor, Quinn, who is fed up with her agent’s tendency to work alone, break the rules, and annoy her in any way possible. Danika’s snark and wit is reason enough to like her, but it’s her unbreakable will, and desire to protect the city and her family at any cost that makes her truly admirable.

You want to talk issues? Try being a vampire with no idea what the rules are. Rayne was just a country girl gone to the city to become a cop, with good intentions, until she was seduced by a beautiful woman who turned out to be a blood-sucking parasite who killed Rayne and added her to her undead army.

She seems just as nice as she presents herself, but there are some unanswered questions about Rayne. Why is she here? Why doesn’t she know the laws of the city? Why can’t Danika stop thinking about her lips and skin? And most of all, can she be trusted?

The Writing Style

Written in Danika’s point of view only, this story is fast-paced and action-packed, two things that are really great in urban fantasy, if done well. It feels like Young has done it well, as each action scene serves to ramp up the tension and the stakes until it feels like we’re on an out-of-control death ride to a final confrontation that has major consequences for humanity as a whole, much less for our heroic protagonists. The story is well-written and well edited, which allows the reader to simply hang on and enjoy the ride.

The Pros

There were a couple of big pluses for me in this story. First, the chemistry between Danika and Rayne was scorching, the lust almost palpable on the page. But it didn’t end there, with that shallow physical desire. From the start, I felt a deeper connection trying to form, trying to overcome Danika’s hatred of vampires and make her look at Rayne not for what she was, but for who.

I also liked Danika’s snippy, sarcastic way of interacting with those around her. She definitely didn’t take a lot of crap from those around her at the job, and even with her family, although she couldn’t be as brutally honest at first, when she did finally tell it how it was, it felt like a badass woman who was standing up for herself, at last. I also enjoyed the pure escapism of this book.

High stakes, dangerous creatures, and capable women, a trifecta of good story ingredients.

The Cons

There are a couple of cons in this book for me. As always, they might not bother another reader. And honestly, nothing was horrible, or bad enough to stop me from enjoying this story, but I noticed.

First, I couldn’t tell where the story was located. I thought at first that it happened in Canada because of a reference to the States. But later, I decided it was England. Or Scotland. Maybe. Okay, I’m still not sure.

Second, the world-building felt a little… shallow. I mean, as long as I focused on the here and now of the story, things were fine. But when there were mentions of how the world got to this point, things didn’t add up for me. Next, this story suffers from a super human phenomenon. By that I mean that the humans in the story seem to take a lot of damage, and yet they’re able to get back up and keep fighting. They do have some sort of super serum that gives them faster reflexes, greater strength, and increased healing, so some of this is understandable. But it seems taken to an extreme.

Last, let’s talk about sex. I don’t have a problem with stories that have no sex, especially when the genre doesn’t really support on-page sex scenes. Urban fantasy rarely has sex scenes in it, and when sex does occur, it’s usually fade to black. Again, I don’t have a problem with that, if the story calls for it. But this book sets up such a level of heat between the main characters that getting to the end of the book, with a last chapter that occurs weeks to months later, I found it unbelievable and unrealistic that these two characters hadn’t had sex yet.

The Conclusion

Honestly, if you’re a fan of the genre, and enjoy pure escapist fun, get this book. You’ll enjoy the story, root for all the good guys, cheer the downfall of the bad guys, and look on with interest what happens to those in the moral middle of ambiguity. The action leads you from one thing to the next and you won’t want to put the book down.

At the end, you’ll have had a good time, and will want to see what happens next.

Excerpt from Both Ways by Ileandra Young

At the security checkpoint, another security guard, this one human, waits with a metal detector in his hand and a Taser on his hip. He waves to a shallow tray on the edge of a conveyor belt that runs into a scanning machine.

“Place all your belongings in the tray and raise your arms.”

“That’ll take a while–are you sure?”

“Rules. Get on with it.”

I bite my tongue over the snarky response and begin the laborious process of pulling off all my gear. Purse, ID wallet, gun, silver darts, a pack of chewing gum, and three red Biros with the ends chewed off. Next my utility belt which holds two throwing knives, three holy water phials, a pack of UV glow sticks, three clips of SPEAR issue bullets (wood, lead, and silver), a coil of silver chain, a daisy pressed between two sheets of greaseproof paper, and a single pebble of smooth, red-flecked obsidian. Oh, and all the other knives secreted across my body.

The guard heaves a sigh.

“I did warn you.”

He shoves my tray through the scanner, then waves the wand of his metal detector back and forth across my body. It bleeps going over my watch. “Off.”

“It’s just a watch.”

“Take it off and put it in the tray.”

I wrap my hand around it. “I take this thing off once a day and that’s when I go to bed. Beyond that and you’re shit out of luck.”

His free hand drifts towards the Taser. “I won’t say it again, miss.”

“It’s Agent, and you can get bent, tubby gut.”

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Series

The S.P.E.A.R. Mission Files

Book One:  Both Ways

Book Two:  (forthcoming in the future… hopefully?)

Bits and Bobs

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