Full Disclosure: My copies of Deadly Curiosities and Vendetta were obtained through a contest hosted by Rebel Publishing. Winning the contest was not conditional upon any agreement to write a review. No purchase was necessary to enter and I have not otherwise been compensated. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
This is my eager face. This is what happens when I put down the first book of a series and pick up its sequel. Thanks to the lovely folks at Rebel Publishing, I ended Gail Z. Martin’s Deadly Curiosities and was able to immediately pick up the next novel of South Carolina Urban Fantasy, Vendetta.
Vendetta picks up some time after the end of Deadly Curiosities. We find Cassidy and Teag at their headquarters, Trifles and Folly, battling a hideous wraith attached to an object that has just recently come into their possession. Martin has had much more success with the DC novels as she attempts to lay out an urban fantasy series that can also hold its own with stand-alone novels. There is little mention of the events of the previous novel, though familiar characters like Chuck Pettis, Lucinda, Niella, Mrs. Teller, and Anthony are back for another adventure. Add Archibald Donnelly, Charleston’s resident Necromancer to the cast, along with Father Anne and a few more of the best and brightest the Alliance has to offer, and Cassidy and Teag are not short on help.
But the foe the team is pitted against this time is nothing like anything Cassidy and Teag have ever dealt with, and few in the Alliance are prepared for: Nephilim.
Those of you who have followed me to Sanctuary and into the Eternal Conflict will remember hearing the word “Nephalem” in the world of Diablo. The premise for the Nephilim is similar. Instead of a co-mingling of angels and demons, with the Nephalem rising as their children, the Nephilim of Martin’s world are the offspring of fallen angels that have managed to coerce or trick humans into breeding with them. In Diablo, the Nephalem are capable of becoming stronger than their parents, but ultimately descend into humans as we know them, one or two emerging every now and then to become one of the heroes of Sanctuary. Martin’s Nephilim are part of the Judge’s arsenal. That Judge is Sariel, a former actual judge named Asa Larson, who bonded with the evil spirit Sariel. Now one and the same, Sariel searched for the bandits who killed his daughter and son-in-law. When the law failed him, Judge Larson took it into his own hands and brought Watchers through to our world, with the help of Reapers that feasted on the souls of ghosts to give the Watchers their power. The Nephilim became a clever distraction, keeping Sorren and the Alliance occupied while Sariel brought about the Harrowing disguised as the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1748. Sariel called Charleston the “Wicked City” and marked it for sentencing. Sorren managed to stop him and kill Sariel’s son, Samuel. Sariel survived, and he never forgot.
Sariel begins the process again to bring another Harrowing down on Charleston. He strikes strategically at Sorren’s many hideouts, secret bolt holes, and business partners, keeping the vampire moving and directionless. Cassidy and Teag both come under fire. Nephilim relentlessly pursue them, and it’s a race against time, for each Watcher that comes through brings Sariel closer to his goal: vengeance on Sorren and the death of everyone Sorren has ever cared about.
Martin takes her storytelling to the next level with Vendetta. If you are looking for a side of an author that’s rarely seen, you’ll find it in Vendetta. Martin ratchets up the suspense with every passing chapter. Her progression is flawless. Her one weakness with this novel may be its resemblance to the previous novel, in formula if not substance, and you know what? That doesn’t even matter. I buried the fact that I noticed the novel was a formula for the previous one and ignored it. There is entirely too much good substance in this novel to keep my focus. Gail Martin’s stories are character-driven. The plot deepens our understanding of each and every one of Martin’s primary characters. Who cares how many ghost hunts the team goes on? Martin’s talent for telling a ghost story leaves the reader begging for more. Another haunted house excursion? Fighting demons and Nephilim and angry ghosts? Bring it on, Gail.
Again Martin mixes real tradition with local superstition for an intense ride through historic Charleston’s most iconic areas. Once again Martin employs Louisiana Houdon and South Carolina Gullah traditions, recognizing the prevalence of those traditions and their influence on the American South. Gail Martin has entirely too much respect for these traditions to leave them out, ruling out any argument that Martin culturally appropriates different aspects of religions to serve her own ends. Martin mixes the deep-seated sentiment of the Romantic South with the folk traditions of the people who came here under white subjugation. In Martin’s novels, these traditions take on new life and thrive. Martin’s Urban Fantasy is modern and progressive. Cassidy is an independent woman who finds even she has her limits, her breaking point. Teag and Anthony have moved in together. Exhibits of people of color are showcased alongside Blue Blood Charleston fundraisers. The old and the young battle side by side for Charleston’s survival. If Martin showed us the true nature of how we treat Death in Deadly Curiosities, she shows us in Vendetta that the elderly are just as important as the hail, and still have much to offer.
Martin ups the ante with Vendetta, leaving a body count in the wake of Sariel and his Nephilim like no other I have ever seen from the author. Even the overwhelming destruction caused by the Great Fire in Ice Forged does not compare to the sheer villainy of Sariel and his minions. The events culminating in Vendetta‘s final chapters will leave the reader breathless and in tears. Martin proves she can not only spin a truly creepy ghost story, she can horrify and enrage.
For those that can’t get enough of the Deadly Curiosities adventures, Martin has a number of short stories on Amazon. You can reach Gail on Twitter at @GailZMartin, and don’t forget to put your request in to be added to the grassroots foot patrol on Facebook at the Shadow Alliance group page. Tell them the Squealing Nerd sent you, and don’t forget to check out Martin’s other series, The Chronicles of the Necromancer, The Fallen Kings Cycle, and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Gail and her husband Larry have also written a steampunk anthology called Iron and Blood, all of which you can find on Amazon.