Darkstone by D Jordan RedhawkDarkstone by D Jordan Redhawk is an urban fantasy novel with edge. I was initially hesitant to read it, from the blurb it felt a lot like Redhawk’s Sanguire series, which wasn’t a bad thing on its own. I’ve enjoyed reading that series, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to revisit a similar set of circumstances so soon. It turns out I was completely wrong; Darkstone is nothing like Sanguire, and I’m very glad I took the chance on it.

I struggled a bit when trying to categorize the book for this review. While it’s classifiable as urban fantasy and lesbian fiction, trying to pin it into other categories proved difficult. I love a book that defies expectations, and this is one of those.

Darkstone opens with an orphaned girl scrounging for food on the streets. She is rescued and adopted by a mysterious man, one to whom she is indebted, though she can’t quite bring herself to trust him. He names her Joram Darkstone and takes her in, allowing her to live a life of luxury at his compound in Jamaica. There is a lot about him she doesn’t understand, but she knows she owes him and she works hard to earn her keep. That is, until she turns thirteen and is thrust into a hell straight out of the Lord of the Flies.

On the other side of the world, Naomi Kostopoulos is going through challenges of her own. Her adoptive mother sends her away to a monastery to be trained into a cold-blooded killing machine by an elf named Nathan. At this point, she learns that there’s much more to her adoptive mother than she ever considered. Naomi has been chosen for a greater purpose. Somewhere on the planet is a man who is planning to open a gate to another dimension. Just as Naomi has been chosen to stop this event from occurring, so too has this man chosen an avatar to act through to open the gate. One day, Naomi will have to face and kill this person to prevent an apocalypse of unimaginable proportions.

Fast forward a dozen years, and both Joram and Naomi are in Los Angeles. Joram is fronting the up-and-coming metal band, Invocation; Naomi is attending grad school. Naomi’s roommate, Rebecca, drags her, despite her better judgment, to see Joram’s band perform. The two end up meeting and discover an undeniable connection. To the surprise and concern of her band members and her benefactor, Joram courts Naomi.

For her part, Naomi can’t help her growing attraction to Joram, but she knows it can never come to fruition. Somewhere is the one she will need to kill, and time is running out before the gate is opened. Naomi yearns for the happiness she feels when she and Joram are together, but knows her destiny will deny it. For her part, Joram is only beginning to learn of the dark forces that have propelled her to where she is now. Is she prepared to pay the price they demand for her greatness, especially if it means she would lose Naomi?

Above all, this is a story about destiny and what can come of those who choose to defy it.

The Characters

Joram Darkstone is self-confident and charismatic. She was born to fill the role she currently occupies as the face of a metal band. Her road to stardom hasn’t been easy, despite having a rich and powerful patron, or maybe because of it. She’s also hard-headed with a wide rebellious streak, one which has been carefully managed, yet she still occasionally strays from the path she has been set upon. Her leadership abilities and rebelliousness mean she also thinks out of the box, a trait which often comes in handy.

Naomi Kostopoulos is the quiet and mild-mannered grad student who could dismantle you with one hand if she wanted to. Eager to please, Naomi does her best, but can’t quiet her misgivings about the task she’s been given. Responsible to a fault, Rebecca has to practically bully her into taking time off for herself. She is determined to accomplish as much as she can in life before she is killed or incarcerated as a result of her mission.

The Writing Style

Redhawk’s matter-of-fact style is once again a delight to read. There is nothing to distact from the story, but nothing is skimped upon either. Her descriptions add enough to set each scene, but not to overwhelm it. Both Joram and Naomi have different voices and each character is distinct. Her use of language in Joram’s character adds another layer. The liberal sprinkling of Jamaican patois seems strange at first when the reader experiences it through Naomi’s eyes, but after a while it becomes seamless, simply another facet of what makes Joram who she is and brands her as different.

The Pros

This is a story written about a metal band by someone who knows metal! As a metalhead myself, I appreciated the realism that knowledge brought to the story. I also enjoyed that it was difficult for me to guess where the story was going. I certainly didn’t anticipate the final denouement, that one took me by surprise but in the best possible way!

The Cons

Not a con, per se, but as with the author’s other novels, the sex scenes fade to black. There is a very sweet romance at the core of the story, though, so I didn’t feel that I missed anything in that regard.

The Conclusion

You need to read this book. If you like urban fantasy, hard-edged music, and a pair of women who are willing to defy their imposed destinies to be together, then this book is for you. And if you think you know where the story’s headed, trust me, you don’t. I thought I had the ending figured out, but Redhawk took me down a completely different path.

Excerpt from Darkstone by D Jordan Redhawk

The crowd screamed approval as the pianist stood, her action so sudden and violent that her stool crashed backward. She scooped up a microphone and strutted toward the audience, confident arrogance in every step as she grinned. “Yuh nuh ready, Long Beach?” A roar answered her and she shared a grin with the bass player. “Let’s get this dance started!”

“Witness death and destruction,

“Homicidal blood on my hands and soul.

“My wicked crime.

“Time to delete myself,

“To remove myself

“From what I’ve Chosen.”

As the singer belted out the first of her lyrics, Naomi stood rooted, frozen as everyone around her moved to the music. She recognized the accent, that voice, though she hadn’t heard it in a dozen years or more, not since she’d left Nathan and the monastery. My god, what are the chances? Of all the places to meet her ethereal friend, the last would be a rock concert on the western coast of the United States. Completely enamored, she didn’t even mind the unfamiliar music—the occasionally harsh guitar strains, the heavy drums, the moments when the singer’s voice faded into rap or screams. Naomi knew she was staring but couldn’t help herself.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781594934735e
  • Publisher: Bella Books

D Jordan Redhawks Online

review-copyNote: I received a free review copy of this book for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.

 

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Lise MacTague writes in all areas of speculative fiction, from space operas to high fantasy to urban fantasy and everything in between. She writes for a lesbian audience and suggests that those who might be offended by such works of fiction might be better served in finding their reading materials elsewhere.

Her debut novel, Depths of Blue, was published by Bella Books in April 2015. The sequels, Heights of Green and A Vortex of Crimson, will be released afterward to round out the On Deception’s Edge trilogy.

Lise lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When she isn’t working as a librarian or writing, she may be found on the ice (playing hockey, definitely not figure-skating). She dabbles in painting and sculpting, and entertains her two cats on cold Wisconsin evenings.