Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert
February 2010 (Paperback release)
Paperback, 340 pages
Penguin Group (USA)
Reviewed by Karra
Being a Keeper, a woman who meditates and invokes the power of her own chi to protect the warriors that are under her care, Mia Lockhart leads a life that’s anything but boring. Her life encompasses all things martial arts, training as a “vogue” (a martial artist who practices choreographed forms), and the men she protects are fellow martial artists who compete in the extreme world of fighting. Before a charge’s big fight, Mia meditates for a week, revving up her chi, or energy force, before “stepping out” the night before, having an out of body experience into another realm where she discharges her chi to the man she’s protecting. This extra boost of life force typically helps keep the fighter safe and sound during his various fights, which is the goal of a Keeper’s life.
When several fighters simply drop dead, one of them her own charges, Mia’s worried that something unnatural is happening in her seemingly safe world. Despite this weird phenomenon, her best friend Nick decides to enter into a fight, and even though he’s not one of Mia’s charges, she tries to find a way to protect him. Since the men who’ve died so sporadically all did so within days of their own fights, she has no real reason to fear for Nick’s safety, as she can’t find a connection between any of the deaths. Well, not until Adrian Ashton enters their lives and changes all the rules.
Ashton is a gorgeous man who somehow draws Mia’s attentions to not only his perfect fighting skills, but also his incredible mind. He seems to know a lot about the martial arts and when he’s interested in getting a specific tattoo from Mia’s tattoo shop—from Mia herself—her attraction to him grows. He seems like the perfect man, easily enfolding himself into the dojo’s tight knit crew and into their lives. He even becomes Nick’s training partner for the fight, and though he’s a hardcore trainer, Ashton turns Nick into the professional fighter he needs to be in order to win.
So what’s not to like about Adrian Ashton? Well, little does everyone know that he’s a vampire of sorts who steals the chi right out of his opponents through the use of various combat moves.
As this could pose a problem, especially when Ashton makes Nick his next target, it’s up to Mia to figure out the truth behind Ashton’s motives, as well as a way to stop him from draining the life out of the most important man in her life.
Wow. I read this book in one day, even though it’s over 300 pages, just because I couldn’t put it down. Keeper of Light and Dust is such a refreshing, interesting concept in storytelling and chock full of so many martial arts facts that I feel like I should take up wearing a judogi, head down to the local dojo and kick some butt (or fall on said butt) under the guidance of a sensei.
Before I do any of that, though, let me explain why this book is, well, a keeper. We all know that vampires are hot right now in the literary world, and though that theme can get a little stale at times, it’s nice to find an author who can utilize the appeal of vamps but twist their nature around a bit so that instead of gorging on blood, Natasha Mostert’s vamp just gorges himself on the direct life energy of his victims. He literally drains the energy right out of them, all without necessarily spilling any blood. So if you like the thought of vampires but are a bit squeamish, you’ll like Adrian Ashton.
Besides a mysterious martial artist vampire who is hotness on legs, the book is filled with muscle bound fighters and gives a glimpse into the world of fighting and what these men (and perhaps women) go through before competing. The idea that Mia is not only a practicing martial artist herself, a tattoo artist and shop owner, but also a mysterious Keeper who protects the fighters of her choosing, seriously gives the girl some depth. She’s an interesting character and her love triangle between Ashton and Nick reveals her struggles between choosing a man she’s merely attracted to versus a man who’s loved her since childhood. Nick is a sweet guy who’s always known Mia was destined to be his, so not only does he want to cement his place in her life, but also in her heart. Fighting for her, in every sense of the word, is something he knows he must do in order to keep her.
The writing can be confusing at times as facts are simultaneously thrown out, but this doesn’t hinder the story in any way. Also, the reader knows most of Ashton’s secrets before the other characters do, so it makes it a fun experience being the fly on the wall and watching at Mia attempts to unravel the truth that cloaks Adrian Ashton’s very existence.
The ending is realistic, albeit a little sad (or I’m just a sensitive freak), but it ties everything up nicely and makes you wish you had more to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns in Keeper of Light and Dust and if Ms. Mostert’s other books are anything like this one, then I can’t wait to read them.