Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I am not a witch. I am something far more dangerous.”
When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her. Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville. Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…(Amazon)
Faith Hunter’s new urban fantasy series, Soulwood, expands upon her very popular Jane Yellowrock world. Blood of the Earth stars Nell Ingram, a young woman who wields a dark and potentially deadly elemental power rooted deep in the earth itself. Well written with a smooth flow, Hunter introduces the world and the main protagonist’s history, giving readers a strong base on which to build the story. Multiple subplots are introduced throughout, never leaving the reader feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts. The rhythm of the story, along with the narrative, makes it extremely easy to follow and understand.
Readers first met Nell in the Jane Yellowrock anthology, Blood In Her Veins. Jane was tasked with helping a vampire clan find a missing member who they believed had been kidnapped by an ultra-religious cult- the God’s Cloud of Glory Church. This leads her to Nell. Nell has strong ties to the church having been raised in it. Nell left the church and her family when she refused to marry the church leader at age 12. Two members, Leah and John Ingram, took Nell to live with them until she became of age and John then married her to protect her. When John and Leah passed away, Nell became the sole beneficiary of their home, Soulwood, and the surrounding acreage. From that day forward, Nell has been locked in battle with the church, determined to save her land, her home, and herself from their clutches.
Women were expected to simply take whatever the churchman dished out. Take it and cry and grieve then accept whatever they did. No more. Not for me.
Nell agrees to help Jane, placing her at greater risk of retribution from the church. Jane offers to help Nell in return, telling her she get word to Psy-LED and to be on the lookout for, “a handsome man who will break your heart if you let him.” Nell is shocked and angered when Rick LeFleur and his mate, Paka, show up months later, looking for more help from her. He offers her a position on the Psy-LED team as a consultant though true to his usual modus operandi, there is a catch. Rick wants Nell’s help in discovering if a domestic terrorist group have joined with the Church and are once again kidnapping supernaturals for their own nefarious uses. Rick needs Nell’s connections to the church to find the missing supernaturals.
The dynamic world building, intense characterization, and an action packed storyline that hints at increasing darkness nurture and grow Hunter’s newest heroine-Nell Ingram. As the narrator, Nell is an interesting protagonist and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her evolution. Totally off the grid and self-reliant, Nell exists in a prison of her own making, choosing to stay on her land and avoid any human contact unless absolutely necessary. Some similarities to Jane are seen in here. Nell’s a loner whose childhood wasn’t ideal. She’s intelligent, loyal, and cunning. Curious and outspoken, she views the world and those around her with a jaundiced eye, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And like Jane, Nell has a gift that is sentient and evolving.
I had an instinct, a feeling, that there might be more I could do, if I was willing to pay the price.
But, there are also differences that make Nell very much her own person; giving us a whole new world and heroine to explore. Nell has known love and the affection of family growing up. Though born and raised in a fundamentalist polygamy sect, she is well versed in the outside world; even if she isn’t all that trustful of it. One big difference between Jane and Nell is Jane has always longed for love, family, and friends; something that was denied her due to her dual nature and ingrained guilt over past events. Nell carries no guilt over the things she has done to keep herself safe. Her ingrained wariness has her questioning everyone. Her stubbornness keeps her from trusting anyone unconditionally. And the only thing keeping her from family and love is herself.
My land. My enemies. My Judgement.
As Nell and the Psy-LED group investigate the terrorist group and their association with the church, Nell soon learns she needs Rick and what he has to offer. The invasion of Psy-LED group gives Nell the push she needs to start re-evaluating her life and the reasons for her solitude. It also offers her new insight into her growing powers. She opens her door to her home and her heart, causing her to understand that her solitude is nothing more than an attempt to avoid more pain and heartbreak. Her reconciliation with her family is both bittersweet and humorous and I do hope we see more of them in the future. She sees the events of the past through the eyes of an adult and realises her anger and hate clouded her judgement on some issues. She also accepts that though her life wasn’t perfect by any means, everything has a reason for happening and she not only survived-she triumphed.
Perhaps there were good times among the bad, the difficult, and the compromises I had made to stay safe and alive.
Hunter introduces us to various secondary characters who all hold a viable spot in Nell’s world-good and bad. The church and her family gives us an intimate view into polygamy and assures us that while faith is a powerful motivator, not everyone is a puppet to it. The members of Rick’s unit are an interesting, personable group who welcome Nell with open arms and show her she now has an army at her back and friends by her side. We get a hint to a possible romance for the future but as anyone who reads Hunter knows, it won’t be an easy storyline. Hunter takes an unusual interest in Rick, using Nell’s gift and nature to give readers some insight into him and his relationship with Paka through the eyes of an outsider, which surprised me. I never thought Hunter could actually make me feel some sympathy for Rick. But through Nell’s eyes, we see something different than what we saw through Jane’s. It re-enforces the feeling that the two series will eventually crossover and I for one cannot wait.
Rick gave me a wry smile, maybe the one he had before he was bitten by a wereleopard, and all the joy was bled out of him.
Fans of Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series will enjoy Hunter’s newest heroine and world. Action, suspense, humor, unpredictable magic, a strong heroine, and a hint of romance engages from the first page and left this reader more than ready for book two of the series-Curse of the Land-set to release November 2016.
Previous Faith Hunter Reviews (Jane Yellowrock world)