No Sleep Till Doomsday: This series fires on all cylinders

No Sleep Till Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton fantasy book reviewsNo Sleep Till Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

No Sleep Till Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton fantasy book reviewsNo Sleep Till Doomsday (2018), the third installment in Laurence MacNaughton’s DRU JASPER series, delivers all the excitement, action, romance and humor I expect from these books — plus, it brings in a new muscle-car who is an ancient rival of the speed-demon Hellbringer, and I’ve come to love Hellbringer.

Dru is a crystal sorceress in Denver, Colorado, who together with a group of allies is trying to stop the breaking of the seals on the Apocalypse Scroll and the resulting Doomsday. Dru is aided by her demonically possessed boyfriend Greyson, who drives Hellbringer; her friend Rane, who can turn herself into metal or stone; and her non-magical but knowledgeable store employee, Opal. She is sometimes aided and more often hindered by Salem, Rane’s arrogant, loner sorcerer boyfriend. Over the course of the series, Salem has shifted (mostly) from being an adversary to being an ally but he is an untrustworthy one, mostly because he distrusts Greyson, and he assumes that he is a better, smarter sorcerer than anyone around. His constant discounting of Dru’s ability often complicates the plot and makes me want to shake him, a measure of how engaging I find this series.

In No Sleep Till Doomsday, another crystal sorceress who calls herself Lucretia steals an amulet from Dru, while a giant man-bat grabs Salem and yanks a protective amulet off his neck as well. In a short period of time the gang works out that Lucretia, who is behind the wheel of Soulbreaker, another demonically possessed car, has a truly evil plan. Lucretia has recruited a group of protean sorcerers, who can shape-shift, to help her gather up various magical amulets she needs to usher in Doomsday. It turns out that Lucretia is one of the original Harbingers, the group who decided the world needed to end and have planned to bring that about since the 1970s.

The battle scenes with the protean sorcerers (or as Rane calls them, the “protein sorcerers”) are, to use a word I often don’t, epic. So are the chase scenes between Soulbreaker and Hellbringer, because for Hellbringer, this time it’s personal.A Dru Jasper Novel by Laurence MacNaughton

In each of these books, MacNaughton has created a location that feels like “Colorado Strange.” In It Happened One Doomsday, it was an odd and creepy house in the desert, with a real 1960s vibe, that was used by the Harbingers; in A Kiss Before Doomsday, it was the array of tunnels and underground compound carved into the mountains. In No Sleep Till Doomsday, MacNaughton gives us a 1960s-era ghost town, a small place in the hills where people walked away one day, leaving everything. Once again, if you know history (or lived through the 1960s) you have an inkling of why the town might have been abandoned, and the book plays fair with the readers, revealing the reasons in a timely and dramatic manner. Lucretia is revealed as a villain who has a justifiable grievance, even if destroying the world is not a proportional response. In fact, Lucretia might be the most sympathetic of the villains we’ve seen so far. And it’s revealed that her actions have driven the plot since the beginning of the series.

Everything I like about these books is done well here. I love Opal’s humor and the struggle Greyson and Dru face to have a relationship. I grind my teeth at Salem’s blind sense of superiority. I’ve even warmed up to Rane, who wasn’t a character I liked much in the first book. She’s grown on me, mainly because her loyalty to Dru is unswerving. And of course, the things that make this contemporary fantasy series stand out are well represented here. While crystals and minerals are a fantasy mainstay, Dru uses them in a different way, and I learn about a new-to-me mineral or semi-precious stone with each book. But it’s the speed-demon cars that hold my interest. I love Hellbringer, and I love its conflicts. It was especially fun to get still more of Hellbringer’s point of view in No Sleep Till Doomsday. If you enjoy contemporary fantasy with a dash of romance, lots of banter and plenty of chase scenes, I heartily recommend these.

Published in October 2018. An inexperienced sorceress must retrieve a priceless artifact from the enchantress who stole it, break the curse on her half-demon boyfriend, and stop her friends from turning on each other before the enchantress calls down doomsday. When a wicked enchantress steals a cursed doomsday amulet, crystal sorceress Dru Jasper has only twenty-four hours to get it back before the world will come to a fiery end. With this supernatural amulet in hand, the enchantress intends to break the sixth seal of the apocalypse scroll–making the seas boil, the stars fall from the sky, and the earth itself split apart. Overall, bad news. Dru must hit the road to get the amulet back. But she suspects her half-demon boyfriend, Greyson, and his demon-possessed muscle car, Hellbringer, are hiding a dark secret. Can she trust them to help her stop doomsday? Worse, tracking down the enchantress runs Dru smack up against a pack of killer shape-shifters, the grim mystery of a radioactive ghost town, and a dangerous speed demon even more powerful than Hellbringer. As the clock runs out, Dru is locked in a high-speed chase with the enchantress, fighting a fierce, magical duel she can never win alone. Can Dru and her sorcerer friends unravel Hellbringer’s secrets, outwit the shape-shifters, and retrieve the stolen amulet before the dawn of doomsday?

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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