Eve of Darkness: She’s tough, she’s sexy, but best of all, she’s smart

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book reviews S.J. Day Marked 1. Eve of Darkness Eve of Darkness by S.J. Day

Welcome to S.J. Day’s California, where demons walk among us, unbeknownst to all but a few chosen souls. These chosen souls are the “Marks,” so named because they bear the Mark of Cain. Personally recruited by God to serve as demon-hunting enforcers, they gain superhuman powers and a chance to expiate their sins. The oldest, baddest mark is Cain himself. He’s still a rebel with a distaste for rules, and he still doesn’t get along with that brother of his.

Our heroine, Evangeline “Eve” Hollis, finds herself thrust unexpectedly into the life of a Mark after a hot elevator interlude with a man who reminds her eerily of her first love, Alec Cain. (Guess who.) Eve of Darkness follows Eve as she adjusts to her new powers, learns to navigate the world of celestial and infernal politics, and wrestles with feelings for both Cain and Abel.

Eve is an interesting character in a subgenre where heroines often seem cookie-cutter. She’s not a complete loner, for starters — she has a complicated relationship with her parents and a warm, sweet friendship with an elderly widow in her building. She also seems very realistic in her initial reactions to the changes in her life. Rather than suddenly transforming into a hard-edged warrior, she is reluctant to embrace this new existence, and would rather just get on with her interior design career until she realizes there’s no going back. She also is able to think outside the box at times and come up with unconventional solutions to problems.

S.J. Day has obviously done her research into the lore she is using. The moment where her hard work really became evident to me was in the scene with the lilin. I’ve seen variations on lilin in several urban fantasies, but how many authors incorporate the legend that a hundred lilin die every day, and work that into the characterization?

Pacing is a little odd. The early chapters of the book are very steamy, and most of the non-sex action deals with a serial-killing water demon who is stalking Eve. Another plot is also building during this time, involving demons who’ve found a way to hide their nature from Marks, but this plot doesn’t really pick up until later in the book. When it does become a major plot, it explodes into something very big and very complex, and suddenly there are werewolf families and mages and animal mutilations and byzantine double-crossings, and seemingly-important characters introduced pretty late in the story. I was sometimes confused.  It felt, if this makes any sense, like the sex plot was a little too “front-loaded” and the action plot a little too “back-loaded.” It felt like two separate episodes of Eve’s story rather than two threads braided together. Also, and I admit this is a very silly peeve, but I don’t like the convention of using the word “wolf” to refer to a werewolf when the creature is in human form. It always makes me picture the four-footed variety and throws me out of the story.

Then again, maybe it’s premature to make a judgment about the pacing. Eve of Darkness and its sequels, Eve of Destruction and Eve of Chaos, are scheduled to come out in consecutive months, and it’s clear that they’re meant to be read in rapid succession. (Evidence: The first chapter of Eve of Darkness is actually a cliffhanger for Eve of Destruction.) Perhaps after reading all three, the overall “flow” of the series will be more clear.

S.J. Day has created a unique world, and it has many secrets that have yet to be revealed. I’m especially interested in finding out what sets Eve apart; there are hints that there is something unusual about her that caused her to be chosen in the first place. I’m also interested in the intricacies of angelic politics and what the various angels’ agendas and plots are. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

If I didn’t make it clear above, readers should be advised that there is a great deal of sex in Eve of Darkness! Depending on whether you’re a member of the “Yay, Fantasy with Sex!” club or the “Get This Stinkin’ Sex Out of My Fantasy” club, your mileage may vary.

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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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