Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Hell’s road was an easy road to tread.”
Faith Hunter takes us back to Tennessee and her newest heroine, Nell Ingram, in the second installment of her epic and fascinating urban fantasy series, Soulwood. A spinoff of her best-selling Jane Yellowrock series, Soulwood deals with a new heroine and the psyLED agency run by the well established and often despised Rick LeFleur. In book one-Blood of the Earth-Hunter introduced us to Nell, simultaneously divulging her background while co-opting her into helping Rick and psy-LED to solve the mystery of a missing vampire. This leads her back to into the nightmare of her youth. Nell helps to save the day; reconnecting with her family and gaining a new one.
Curse On the Land picks up after Nell has completed her “Spook Squad” training. She is now a special agent with Unit 18 in the psyLED agency and they are slowly drawing her out of her self-imposed isolation. She has come home to Soulwood only to discover her land is sick and the sickness is spreading. Her tentative examination shows that something or someone is attempting to poison the land. Nell is unable to pursue this further because she is soon called back into work. Nell learns that other locations around the state are showing similar symptoms to what she felt on her land and her special affinity to the earth is needed. But the danger goes much deeper; affecting wildlife and people. As Nell and the team investigate, they are dragged into a conspiracy that spans generations and has opened the doorway for an entity that is alive…and very hungry.
“Fed by blood and death […] By war and battle and the life force soaking into the earth for eons. It has not been fed in many passages.”
Hunter lets her imagination roam free and wild in this installment. The action, suspense, and intrigue creates a convoluted storyline with multiple plotlines while low key humor and some ongoing subplots intertwine throughout to help to keep the story from becoming too clinical. Hunter does unload quite a large amount of information in the beginning and her heavy use of acronyms and technical terms did cause me to stumble a couple of times. This was present in book one also.
There is a small base of reality in the mix as Hunter touches on the misuse of the land, using magic and mythological legends to highlight the damage and consequences of our neglect, misuse, and attempts to subvert it. Nell’s gift is a much-needed resource to combat what is happening but it is also a curse as like calls to like. Nell finds herself repeatedly in danger as her communes with the earth brings her some very unwanted attention. I found the gist of the conflict and the reasons of those involved very interesting and imaginative.
The balance between Nell’s continuing evolution and the main conflict is well defined and blends together in a natural manner. Smooth switches from topic to topic merges with engaging narrative and the tidbits of personal information of the characters. While Nell is the main protagonist, Hunter doesn’t skip on the characterization of the secondary characters-be it her team members or various others who are only important to this storyline.
“George Orwell had said something about power not being a means to an end. He said that power was the end. “
Nell is slowly growing both professionally and personally; coming into herself. Hunter gives more clues to Nell’s gifts but there are still no concrete answers. The assumption is we will learn along with Nell as to what she really is. Joining the psyLED has opened a doorway for Nell beyond how she was raised. Though the teachings of the church are still strong in her, she is beginning to see that the outside world is not the enemy. Strong, curious, and intelligent, she wholeheartedly goes where angels fear to tread. This causes some problems but nothing that time won’t fix. Her humanity is a positive feature as the psyLED as a whole seems to be in danger of becoming too bureaucratic. Nell’s constant questions and intuitive need to nurture helps to remind the team that there are actual people involved and not everything can be covered up or hidden away.
“You remind me of Jane when she is in a snit.”
“I’m no skinwalker.”
“She told you what she is? Interesting. What are you?”
“You read the reports on me at Spook School. You know what I know.”
“No. This land sings of magic. It claims you are much more.”
The hint romance touched upon in Blood of the Earth is further remarked on but still little advancement. Werecat and team mate Occam remains an enigma to Nell with his flirting and need to protect and care for her. Having only experienced one physical relationship in her life with an older man as a means of survival, she has no experience with attraction, dating, and falling in love though she is beginning to respond to his actions. I loved their dialogue and the mischievous flirting.
“I need a shower and a good tick check. Not that I’m suggesting you do it for me.”
“Good thing. […] I’m not sure I’m the tick-checking kind of girl.”
“I’m pretty sure I can check myself for ticks. But you can wash my back if you like.”
“I thank you for the offer, but I’ll pass on the personal body servant interaction.”
Various subplots from book one are further explored. Nell has to answer for previous actions concerning her land and the church while fans will be SHOCKED and some reluctantly sympathetic concerning the twist Hunter adds to Ricky-Bo’s ongoing dilemma. Some familiar faces from the Yellowrock world make a visit to offer advice and warnings.
“What did you see?”
“I saw nothing.”
“Good. Keep it that way.”
Urban Fantasy fans will love Nell Ingram and her unique way of handling life and those around her. Fans of the Jane Yellowrock series will love the familiarity Hunter wraps around this world while appreciating the effort she goes to make sure this series is able to stand on its own merits.
Review: Book 1-Blood Of The Earth