Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “My enemy’s enemy, is my friend.“
Kayla Friday never expected to become embroiled in a supernatural war when she arrives in Seattle to identify her sister’s body. A nurse, she is unable to accept the coroner’s cause of death and is determined to search the city until she finds out exactly what happened to her sister. This brings her to the attention of Hart.
Hart. A dangerous unbalanced wolf shifter and mercenary, he will do anything to obtain a relic that Kayla’s sister had in her possession when she died. Trapped in a slave bond to his boss, Hart is forced to do his bidding if he ever wants his freedom, even seduce and betray the one woman whose scent drives him mad and marks her as his.
Kayla’s investigations place her directly between two mythological factions-each determined to use her in their ancient battle for control. Kayla and Hart join forces to find the relic before hell unleashes on Earth and consumes everything around them, including their love.
Kira Brady’s debut, Hearts Of Darkness, is a noir fantasy that draws from Norse, Babylonian, and Native American legends, shapeshifters, and ghosts to build a unique world begging to be explored. A faint steampunk vive flows through the story as we see stream run engines, victorian clothing, and various other aspects that point towards this genre. My main problem with this book is how slow it was to connect with at first. The first half of the book sets up for this trilogy, giving back story and set up and it slowed the book down. A sedate pace picks up half way through the story, morphing into a roller coaster ride of action, suspense, and mystery. The main conflict blends nicely with the plot lines and our characters’ dialogue is an engaging mixture of seriousness and snark.
In this world, humans and supernaturals live together in an alternate present day Seattle with most humans having no idea of the danger that lives amongst them. Humans only see what they can explain, which leaves the supernatural community safe to wrestle for control amongst each other. Seattle is controlled by two dominant shapeshifter clans-the Kivati and the Drekar. The Kivati’s are are charged with guarding the gate that separates the mortal world from the spirit world and keeping the human population safe. The Dekars are dragon shapeshifters who came through the mystical gate and proceeded to attempt to take it over. They exist by drinking the souls of humans. Both the Kivati and the Drekar are slowly becoming extinct due to their never ending war.
Kayla Brady is forced to confront all the above and more when she begins to investigate her sisters death and the circumstances behind it. A human with no knowledge of supernaturals, Kayla gets a crash course in the corrupt world that she is attempting to navigate. Forced by the Kivati to find the relic or suffer the consequences, Kayla leaps in both feet first. Kayla is an interesting character to get to know in that she is made up of many contradictions. She is stunningly naive on some things yet amazingly astute in others. She spent her whole life taking care of her baby sister yet seems to know nothing about her, yet is able to provide answers to prophecies that have puzzled all for hundreds of years. She’s not your average heroine. She isn’t a warrior. She’s a healer and her attitude and actions reflects that. She sees the good in everyone and doesn’t question much which gets her into a majority of the trouble she finds herself in.
Hart, our hero, is a prime example of trouble. A broody, growly wolf shifter, he was outcasted from the Kivati clan as a child and is now slave bonded to the head of the Drekar clan-Sven Norgard. A lethal mercenary who cares for no one or nothing except finishing this last job and earning his freedom. Kayla proves to be a problem though. He is physically attracted to her, and the honorable part of him that has survived despite the evil he has been coated with, struggles to gain control of his heart. He finds himself torn between his slave bond, which magically compels him to act against his will, and his heart, which wants Kayla for his own. Their romance is mainly physical and while I enjoyed their interactions, I found the chemistry lacking. They aren’t given enough time to explore their attraction amidst the chaos and it showed.
The secondary characters are an interesting crew whose personalities and actions keep you on your toes. Each are developed to the point of being able to hold their own story. Neither the Kivati or Drekar are honorable clans. Each has ulterior motives and are adept in the art of deception. Norgard, leader of the Drekar, is a nasty villain yet there is a part of him that appeals to you. I really want to learn more about his brother Leif. Corbette, leader of the Kivati, also leaves a bitter taste in your mouth but it seems appearances can be deceiving. The overall premise in here is that good and evil are subjective and redemption can be earned, even in your darkest hours.
Even with my slow start in the beginning, I am looking forward to the second installment, Hearts Of Shadows-releases May 2013. I predict this one will read faster as the majority of the setup and world building was established in here.