Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black

Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black
published by Simon & Schuster in April 2012
As a living descendant of Artemis the Huntress, private investigator Nikki Glass knows how to track someone down. But when an Oracle shows up, warning the descendants about wild dog attacks in Washington D.C., Nikki is afraid it might be a trap. The Olympians believe the “dogs” are jackals, controlled by a blood-crazed descendant of the Egyptian death-god Anubis. Whatever... If Nikki hopes to muzzle Dogboy, she’s got to catch him in the act. But when she stakes out a local cemetery, she ends up face-to-snout with a snarling pack of shadow-jackals whose bite is worse than their bark. These hellhounds are deadly—even for an immortal like Nikki. “Dog” spelled backwards may be “god,” but that won’t stop Nikki from teaching these old gods some new tricks. Like playing dead.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Nikki Glass series, Book #2

The Story: Nikki Glass has recently discovered that she is descended from the Greek goddess Artemis. Not only that, but by accidentally running over Emmitt Cartwright, a client, Nikki has become a Liberi - an immortal descendant. Basically, only a mortal descendant of a god can kill a Liberi and steal his/her seed to become immortal.

Since becoming a Liberi, Nikki is slowly developing her powers. Being from Artemis the Huntress' lineage, it means that she has perfect aim and can track down anything or anyone she's looking for. This last ability makes her really desirable to the Olympians, a group of Liberi descended from Greek gods who believed they are above humans and non-Greek descendants. They have the tendency to slaughter descendants whenever they come across them to preserve their immortality and to reinforce their number. Since Nikki wants nothing to do with the Olympians, her only option is becoming part of Anderson's ragtag group of Liberi because he has a treaty with the Olympians: his Liberi and their families are off-limits to the Olympians as they live in Anderson's mansion.

As a result, Nikki is adapting to her new living arrangement; however, she's walking on eggshells. First, ever since the event in Dark Descendant when she learned of Anderson's true nature, she's been wary of him and therefore, is not herself around him. Then, there's Anderson's wife, Emma, that Nikki and Anderson rescued. The Liberi was repeatedly raped and then, buried alive in a lake. After the shock has wore off, all Emma has on her mind is revenge... and for some reasons, she's also developed a grudge against Nikki, making the atmosphere really tense in the house.

And now, the Olympians and Anderson's group have to work together because there's been a series of wild dog attacks in Washington D.C. and the Oracle believes it's the work of a Liberi. If the government finds out about Liberi, it'd be really bad... and with her developing powers, the task to find the Liberi falls unto Nikki's shoulders. Everyone in Anderson's group believes it's a trap... but sometimes, you have to walk into one to save your hide.

My Opinion: I discovered Ms Black last year with Dark Descendant. I had heard a lot about her Morgan Kingsley series, but it just didn't call to me. So when Ms Black started a new series, it sounded like the perfect occasion to give her a try and I really ended up enjoying Dark Descendant. It's a good thing too since I've been looking for new UF series lately and nothing appeals ^_^; I'm afraid I'm getting burn-out on UF as well, sigh. As a result, I was happy to pick up Deadly Descendant and continue a series that I enjoyed and thought had potential.

Deadly Descendant turned out to be a pretty good book despite a few issues. I think the main problem is that I had high expectations and they were not met. When I started Deadly Descendant, I thought one of the strengths of the series was the world building. I really liked the concept of the Liberi and the two factions. Unfortunately, the world building in Deadly Descendant was stagnant. There wasn't any new forthcoming information about the world to the readers or even to the characters themselves ^_^; And very little growth from the characters as well. Perhaps it would have been better if there's been a longer lapse between the two installments for Nikki to grow accustomed to her new situation and develop her powers. I wish I could say this lack was due to the book focusing on the action, but alas, it wasn't. Which is a great pity in my opinion, since the story/intrigue/suspense of Deadly Descendant was actually pretty good - the best aspect of the book actually - and would have been really exciting if more pages had been dedicated to it. As it is though, it was simply too short for the readers to really gain some momentum in their reading.

There was some unbalance in the book and it came from the fact there was too much monologues from Nikki. Deadly Descendant is written from the 1st POV, so we are privy to Nikki's thoughts and obviously, some were necessary to set up the internal conflict... but it just wouldn't end ^_^; First, there was the fact that Nikki was losing her independence and the whole Liberi situation. Then, the fact that she was wary of Anderson and the conflict with Emma made it so she wasn't sure Anderson would believe her or not. Nikki was a very rational and logical heroine and analyzed everything, but at one point, I thought it was just too much. Her reasoning all made sense and she did what she thought was necessary, but logic doesn't rule everything. Nikki needs to be more confident and assertive, but she also needs to start trusting the Liberi surrounding her. That was obvious to me when she let herself be blackmailed by Emma way too easily. I know she was reluctant to join Anderson's group and the only reason she did was survival... but here are your allies. If you don't get to know them better, if you don't trust them, then what are you going to do in the future? Most importantly, if you don't trust your leader, how can you follow him? I guess we will have to see how this situation unfolds in the next book.

Aside from the suspense which was good, my favorite part of the book was the developing relationship between Nikki and Jamaal. This relationship is actually quite surprising given Nikki and Jamaal started off on a wrong footing - and I'm not talking about a little dislike ^_^; What I also like is how refreshing it is. Usually, in this kind of urban fantasy series, the heroine usually falls for the leader of the group, but not in this case. Jamaal is a very angry character and even though he's been a Liberi for decades, he still doesn't have much control on his powers and his temper. Therefore, I find this relationship very interesting and intriguing and it definitively has a lot of potential. It'll be interesting to see how these two characters and their relationship develop. One thing I know for sure is I do not want a love triangle with Anderson and I hope Ms Black is not heading towards that direction. It definitively is not needed.

In the end, while I think Deadly Descendant was not great (still a decent read though) and a bit of a let-down in comparison to Dark Descendant, the series still has a lot of potential. I'm looking forward to getting to know the other Liberi more and finding out what will happen next. I thought the ending was very exciting - what with the coup in the Olympians hierarchy and how Emma and Anderson's relationship crumbled. Ms Black has really left the doors to the future wide open to possibilities :)

My Grade: C+. I've been debating on the grade between a B- and C+. In the end, I went with the grade you see because while I really liked the suspense, Nikki and Jamaal's relationship and feel the series still has a lot of potential, none of it can overcome Nikki's wishy-washy attitude and monologues - that unfortunately  really marred my enjoyment of Deadly Descendant ^_^;