Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen
published by Signet in June 2008
As a Miami narcotics detective, Leah Daniels never knows how her day will turn out. But she certainly never expected to be strapped to a stone altar, the human sacrifice in an ancient Mayan ritual meant to coax up a demon from the underworld. Or that she’d be saved by a handsome warrior-priest king who claims to recognize her from his visions...
Jaguar Strike wishes he hadn’t made the mistake of reuniting his fellow warrior priests, or broken the law by saving their chosen human sacrifice. Now, he has no choice but to join forces with Leah and invoke dangerous magic in a death-defying race against the end of time.
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: The Last Prophecy, book #1
The Story: According to the Mayan culture and beliefs, the world will end in December 2012 and only the Nightkeepers, a mix of magician/priest, can prevent it. 24 years ago, following his visions, King Scarred-Jaguar led the Nightkeepers in a battle on the veil, a barrier that separates the earth and the underworld. Unfortunately, it ended up in a massacre where only the King's children, an adult Nightkeeper, babies and toddlers who haven't received their magic yet and their respective winikins (servant and protector) survived. Spread in the States, each lived their own life... unable to access the magic beyond the barrier.
For 24 years, Strike-Jaguar has been crippled... believing that the end of the world would still happen, but powerless since the magic is inaccessible... then the barrier starts to weaken and demons are appearing. Strike-Jaguar knows he must do something, but what can he do alone? Then, his winikin informs him of the survivors and Strike's only choice is to reunite them and teach them their heritage. Then, there's Leah Daniels, a Miami narcotics detective who is investigating a sect, Survive2012, and her brother's death. How is she connected to all of this? How can he keep her alive when the Gods are demanding her death?
My Opinion: Lots of things are happening in this book, so it was hard to summarize the story. I think Holly did a better job (here), so you can check it out. So what did I think of the book? I like the premises of the book, i.e. the whole Mayan culture basis. I think it's a nice change from the Greek or Egyptian mythology... However, I don't like how sex and sacrifice are so prominent in this culture... especially sex. For example, to have all the Nightkeepers so horny because they're receiving their bloodlines and magic tattoos. I don't find it appealing ^_^; That being said, it's different and interesting... Especially the fact that she didn't invent the idea of "doomsday" in 2012 as it seems the Mayan culture really believe that 2012 is going to be the end of the world. Instead, she took this and built a world surrounding it. Neat :P
Nightkeepers is an extremely busy book. Being the first in the series, it has to cover the world building, the characters introduction, the romance and the intrigue. Was it too much for one book? Yes. Did the author do a good job? So-so. First, the world building... there was too much, but at the same time, not enough. For example, the 13 prophecies are mentioned quite often, but I don't know what they are. It would have been nice if there'd been more information on the prophecies. However, I understand why Ms Andersen didn't do so... she seemed to have focus more on the Nightkeepers, which is totally understandable, but at the same time, quite overwhelming. What they are, why they exist, how they live, how they use magic, their beliefs and so on. In my opinion, it would have helped if she didn't introduce the whole cast of characters all at once.
Besides Strike-Jaguar and Leah, the cast comprised 11 other Nightkeepers, 2 kids, 6 winikins , a few mortals and let's not forget the villains. Definitively a huge cast, which is why not all the Nightkeepers received the same amount of attention. I understand why Ms Andersen would choose to focus more on the ones whose books are coming up, but it sucked to me. Ms Andersen opens part II of the book by telling some of the Nightkeepers that Nightkeepers really exist and that the king was calling them back. I would have liked to see the reaction of each of them. Yes, they were many Nightkeepers, but at least, it would have given the readers a slight idea on each person. Some Nightkeepers in the book only said one or two sentences!! I personally think that the book would/series would have been more interesting if Strike-Jaguar had to look for each of the Nightkeepers instead of having them answer his call and coming to him. At least, that way, we would have gotten to know each of them better and I think it would have decrease the series baiting feeling. Here's the good news: although the cast is big, it is finite... so that means the series won't be going on forever and hopefully, not too many characters will be introduced in each book *coughlikeDarkHunterseriescough* :)
What else about this book? I liked Striker. He was an interesting hero. Someone that's been waiting in limbo his whole life, not knowing if he'd ever get his magic and if he'd have to fulfill his destiny. At the same time, very reluctant to become king, afraid to do the same mistake as his father. I pretty much liked all the other Nightkeepers introduced. Especially Patience and Branlt. I hope that the author will be lenient towards them and that they'll have their own book. I also enjoyed the whole intrigue, although it could be confusing at times. It would have been more fun if this was really an introductory book, but hey, if we're going to be thrown into the action right away, this is good.
I have to admit that I didn't care much for Leah or the whole romance. I think that there was so much going on... even though Ms Andersen gave it a try, the romance seemed a bit forced too me. It didn't flow very well either, kept being interrupted by Nightkeepers elements, and the obstacles to the romance were meh.
My Grade: B. This is not the best first book I've read, but it was good enough to have me hooked. I'm definitively going to read the second book and see where it takes us :D If you're looking for a new series with a relatively fresh idea, give this one a try :D
P.S. Oh, I almost forgot! One thing about this series: it seems that it's going to follow our timeline... i.e that I'm predicting that the last book will come out in December 2012, to match the prophecy in the book. Isn't that cool?