Dark Time: Technothriller disguised as urban fantasy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDakota Banks Mortal Path 1. Dark Time 2. SacrificeDark Time by Dakota Banks

Dark Time by Dakota Banks is a technothriller disguised as an urban fantasy. For it to reach its ideal audience, it should instead be titled something like “The Anu Tablet” and have an ominously lit historic building on its cover.

The story begins in colonial times, when Susannah Layhem is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to burn at the stake. (Never mind that nobody was burned as a witch in the American colonies; they were hanged.) As she is dying, she is whisked away to a strange underworld and approached by a Sumerian demon, Rabishu. He offers to save her and make her immortal — if she agrees to become an assassin in his service. She accepts. Three hundred years later, Susannah has a moral crisis and decides she wants out of the killing business. There’s only one loophole in her contract: she will be free of Rabishu, and granted entrance to paradise by the god Anu, if she saves as many lives as she has taken. She loses her immortality but keeps a few special abilities. Susannah changes her name to Maliha and begins her new life.

Maliha is gorgeous. She’s great at martial arts. She has tons of money, a cutting-edge car, an arsenal of deadly weapons, and a high-tech set of booby traps protecting her front door (though two people manage to break in during the book). What she doesn’t have, unfortunately, is a personality. I never really felt like I knew Maliha. She holds everybody at arm’s length, including the reader. She has a romantic subplot, but it too is lacking. She barely knows the guy, their chemistry doesn’t come across to the reader, and yet it’s “love.”

The plot involves Maliha investigating two corrupt companies, one of which may have murdered two computer programmers. Maliha is also looking for some artifacts that will help her destroy Rabishu and his fellow demons. There’s plenty of action, but for me it just climbed too far over the top in a cheesy-action-movie sort of way.

Meanwhile, the fantasy elements are barely present, and not completely thought out. For example, Maliha kills lots of people (including some possible innocents) while on her “lifesaving missions,” yet these deaths don’t seem to count against her.

If you like technothrillers with a dash of fantasy, you may like this; but if you’re predominantly a fantasy reader, there’s not much to grab you here. The writing is adequate and the plot is filled with action, but I wanted more characterization and better use of the fantasy elements.

Mortal Path — (2009-2012) Publisher: Three hundred years ago, she sold her soul to a demon. Now she wants it back. For centuries, the woman calling herself Maliha Crayne has lived a second life — as an assassin for the malevolent creature who owns her soul. A haunted killer with the blood of countless victims on her hands, she has finally discovered a way to nullify the demonic pact that chains her: If she saves a life for every one she has taken, she will be free. But if she fails, her punishments will be unspeakable, unendurable… and neverending.

Dakota Banks Mortal Path 1. Dark Time 2. SacrificeDakota Banks Mortal Path 1. Dark Time 2. SacrificeDakota Banks Mortal Path 1. Dark Time 2. Sacrifice 3. Deliverance


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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