7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review & Giveaway: Darker Angels by M.L.N. Hanover

Title: Darker Angels

Author: M.L.N. Hanover

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Pocket (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: September 2009
Paperback: 368 pages

Stand alone or series: Book 2 in The Black Sun’s Daughter series

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher

Why did I read this book: I recently read & reviewed Unclean Spirits, the first book in this series – and I enjoyed it. Naturally, I had to give Darker Angels a read to see where Jayné story went next.

Summary: (from amazon.com)
In the battle between good and evil, there’s no such thing as a fair fight.

When Jayné Heller’s uncle Eric died, she inherited a fortune beyond all her expectations — and a dangerous mission in a world she never knew existed. Reining in demons and supernatural foes is a formidable task, but thankfully Jayné has vast resources and loyal allies to rely on. She’ll need both to tackle a bodyswitching serial killer who’s taken up residence in New Orleans, a city rich in voodoo lore and dark magic.

Working alongside Karen Black, a highly confident and enigmatic ex-FBI agent, Jayné races to track down the demon’s next intended host. But the closer she gets, the more convinced she becomes that nothing in this beautiful, wounded city is exactly as it seems. When shocking secrets come to light, and jealousy and betrayal turn trusted friends into adversaries, Jayné will soon come face-to-face with an enemy that knows her all too well, and won’t rest until it has destroyed everything she loves most….


Jayné Heller’s life has been changed forever following the death of her beloved Uncle Eric – first she finds out she’s heir to an unfathomable fortune, and then she discovers her Uncle was murdered because of his entrenchment in the hidden supernatural world of riders. Jayné takes up the cowl, assuming control of the family business even after her Uncle’s murder is avenged, because for once she feels like she has control and direction in her life – and with the help of her friends and teammates Aubrey, Ex and Chogyi Jake, Jayné finally has a home. While she and the team are working on cataloguing all of Eric’s information and traveling to his extensive properties across the globe, Jayné receives a call on her Uncle’s old cell phone from and old acquaintance of Eric’s, the former FBI Agent Karen Black. The beautiful and charismatic Karen has discovered a girl in danger from a determined rider in New Orleans, and needs Eric’s – or now Jayné’s – help. Eager to jump back into the ring and take on the dangerous task of fighting riders, the team heads down south to Louisiana. Working with Karen Black, Jayné and her friends soon realize that they are in way over their heads. As danger closes in, separating and making enemies of teammates, Jayné must use her wits and strength to save her friends and stop a rider hellbent on their destruction.

While Unclean Spirits introduced readers to an intriguing new world of riders (things humans know as vampires, werewolves, fae, and other supernatural creatures), Darker Angels takes a closer look at a specific type of rider: the loa. In itself, this is pretty cool – most modern Urban Fantasy centers around the usual preternatural suspects, and Darker Angels immerses readers in the not-so-prevalent realm of voodoo. Using Louisiana voodoo spirits and myths like those of opposing loa Rada (including Legba and her ilk) and Petro (Carrefour and his), and historical figures like Marie Laveau (iconic Voodoo Queen of New Orleans), this book delves into New Orleans’s rich past, creating a compelling world of magic and tradition. Too, Mr. Hanover looks at a post-Katrina New Orleans, with its slums and water-rotted homes, the many missing people presumed dead or permanently evacuated, juxtaposed with the old splendor of tourism, grand luxury and spicy food. There’s an understanding of the city and its unique history that comes across beautifully in the novel, in an atmosphere of respect and mystery.

While the setting was fabulously done, equally well-executed was the concept of “magic” in this second book. Building upon what readers learned in the first novel about riders, Darker Angels even further blurs the line between “Good” and “Evil” – are all riders, by definition, “Evil”? This is a question touched upon in Unclean Spirits that is examined even further, and with much more ambiguous results, in Darker Angels. Former professor Aubrey’s analogies for Riders as different kinds of microorganisms (parasites that can be predatory or symbiotic) add a nice visualization to this particularly interesting take on the supernatural. Also under scrutiny in this second book are Jayné’s particular powers, which she and her team have assumed were result of her Uncle Eric’s protections – but this is an explanation that looks increasingly unlikely. Jayné discovers that not only does she have an unconscious skill for self-defense through combat, but she also finds new magical quirks that set her apart from her friends and teammates. This isn’t exactly a subtle plot thread, and it’s probably a safe bet to say Jayné has some dark family secret that has resulted in her particular brand of magical skills. (Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will be able to see where ultimately Mr. Hanover is headed with Jayné’s powers, her past, and the ever-present theme of Good vs. Evil Riders.)

Which brings me to my next points, regarding writing and character development. In Unclean Spirits, Jayné Heller is introduced as a well-meaning but aimless twenty-two year old. She’s just dropped out of college, and if it weren’t for the timing of her Uncle’s death, she’d have nowhere to go and not a cent to her name. With Eric’s passing and his substantial bequeathments on his niece, however, Jayné discovers a purpose and direction, as well as some latent magical abilities she probably never would have realized otherwise. While this makes Jayné a flawed and realistic character, it also means she’s tough to like as she’s kind of a drab, well, loser. In addition to making many too-stupid-to-live decisions, she doesn’t really earn or seem to deserve the bounty thrown in her direction. She’s sweet enough as a character, but lacking in the smarts or significance department. In Darker Angels, Jayné grows on you a little – she still makes appallingly bad decisions (really, flashing lights “THIS IS STUPID!” decisions) and is not too quick on the uptake, but she’s got a lot of heart and is sympathetic, which comes across nicely to readers. Aubrey and Jayné’s relationship is a little vanilla, though I do like that they are both extremely flawed characters who don’t exactly have their stuff together (Aubrey in particular has a lot of baggage).

In comparison to Jayné’s mixture of appeal and annoying traits, however, there are some fabulous secondary characters. Karen Black in particular is a standout as the sexy and confident ex-FBI agent with a penchant for danger (not to mention, it’s nice seeing Jayné interact with another strong female character). And as with Unclean Spirits, the more interesting characters were Jayné’s team members – tortured, enigmatic Ex and the zen Chogyi Jake. Ex goes through the grinder in this second novel, emotions all over the place as he’s manipulated and challenged. A little more about Chogyi Jake and his past is revealed, and he’s a calming influence in a sea of turmoil that surrounds Jayné. Although I did catch myself rolling my eyes at some of the predictable characterizations (everyone is in love with Jayné, and the one female character that seems to have her stuff together is actually a big fat mess), this was a compulsively readable book with enough likable potential to keep me going with the series.

The only other glaring weakness with the series thus far is with the overall level of predictability. It’s tiresome and feels a tad condescending when a book seems as though it has been “written down” to its audience – and such is the case so far with The Black Sun’s Daughter books. Really obvious plot seeds are planted with the subtlety of a sledgehammer (i.e. Jayné’s heritage and the relevance of Riders in her past), and cringeworthy foreshadowing (ominous sentences like, ‘I expected that’s what she meant by saying that. But I was never more wrong. It would be much too late when I finally discovered what she meant,’ etc) is employed with reckless abandon.

With that said, however, these annoyances are minor in the overall scope of the books – and there is more than enough goodness here to merit a much longer look at Jayné and her adventures!

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

“Hey,” my dead uncle said. “You’ve got a call.”

I rolled over in bed, disoriented. A dream about meeting Leonard Cohen in a perfume factory was still about as immediate as reality. My previous day’s clothes were piled in the corner of the tile floor along with the leather backpack I used as a purse. The pack’s side pocket was open and glowing. My uncle Eric’s voice came again.

“Hey. You’ve got a call.”

I untangled myself from the sheets and stumbled over, promising myself for the thousandth time that I would change the ringtone. The bedroom was still unfamiliar. The cell phone flashed a number I didn’t recognize, but there was a name — Karen Black — associated with it, so she must have been in his contacts list someplace. I accepted the call.

“Unh?” I grunted into the receiver.

“Eric, it’s Karen. I’ve found it!” a woman said. “It’s in New Orleans, and I know where it’s going next. There’s a little girl with Sight, and she says her sister is the next target. I don’t know how long I’ve got. I need you.”

It was a lot to take in. I hesitated, and the woman misinterpreted my silence.

“Okay, what’s it going to take?” she demanded. “Name your price, Heller.”

“Actually,” I said. “That’s complicated. I’m Jayné. Eric’s niece. He’s…um…he passed on last year.”

It was Karen Black’s turn to be silent. I gave her a moment to let it sink in. I skipped the parts about how he’d been murdered by an evil wizard and how several of Eric’s old friends, along with a policeman who owed me a favor and a vampire with a grudge against the same wizard, had teamed up to mete out summary roadside justice. I could get back to that later if I needed to.

“Oh,” she said.

“Yeah. He left me pretty much everything. Including the cell phone. So…hi. Jayné here. Anything I can do to help out?”

The pause was longer this time. I could guess pretty well at the debate she was going through. I gave her a hand.

“This is about riders, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “So you know about them?”

“Abstract spiritual parasites. Come in from Next Door or the Pleroma or whatever you want to call it,” I said as I walked carefully back to the bed. “Take over people’s bodies. Have weird-ass magical powers, kind of like the magic humans can do, but way more effective. Yeah, I’ve got the For Dummies book, at least.”

“All right,” she said. “Did Eric…did he even mention me?”

“No,” I said. “Sorry.”

The woman on the other end of the line took a breath as I got back under the covers and pulled the pillow behind my back. I heard Aubrey cough from one of the bedrooms down the hall.

“All right,” she said. “My name is Karen Black. I used to be a special agent for the FBI. About ten years ago, I started tracking down what I thought was a fairly standard serial killer. It turned out to be a rider. We caught the horse, a man named Joseph Mfume, but the rider switched bodies.”

“So not so easy to track,” I said.

“No,” she agreed. “My supervisors wanted me to stop. They didn’t believe there was anything to it. And…well, X-Files was still popular back then. There were jokes. I was referred for psychiatric counseling and taken off active duty. I resigned and went on with the investigation myself. Eric and I crossed paths a few times over the years, and I was impressed with his efficiency. I’ve found where the rider is going to strike next, and I need help to stop it. I thought of Eric.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Can you help me?”

I rubbed my eyes with my free hand until little ghosts of false light danced in my vision.

“Hell if I know,” I said. “Let me talk to my guys and call you back.”

You can read the full excerpt, along with the first five chapters online HERE.

Verdict: Darker Angels is an enjoyable second novel that’s even stronger than its predecessor. Though Jayné might not be the perfect heroine, there’s enough originality and spunk to make The Black Sun’s Daughter a series to look forward to. Recommended, especially for fans looking for a different type of Urban Fantasy.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Reading Next: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson


Giveaway Details:

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster, we have a giveaway copy of Darker Angels available for ONE lucky reader! The contest is open to residents of the US, Canada & UK, and will run until Saturday November 21, 2009 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). In order to enter, just leave a comment here letting us know who your favorite Urban Fantasy heroine is and why. One comment per person, please (duplicate entries will be disqualified). Good luck!

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  • Cara F.
    November 19, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Anita Blake…she is sooooo bad..in a good way…dont mess with her…lol 😉

  • Karissa
    November 19, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Right now my favorite Urban Fantasy heroine Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. She is just so kick butt and tough, yet she has a wonderful sense of humor and a great prespective on life!

  • RKCharron
    November 19, 2009 at 6:39 am

    I really like Georgina by Richelle Mead. She is a decent woman trapped as a Succubus and cannot be with her love without stealing his life. Great strong heroine.
    Thank you for the review, excerpt & chance to win.
    All the best,

  • Colleen McKie
    November 19, 2009 at 7:24 am

    OMG so many to pick from! If forced to chose I’d have to say Clary from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Although I like Sookie from the Southern Vampire books, too. And then there’s Claire, from Caine’s Morganville vampire series…..
    Okay, okay, I’m sticking with my first choice! 🙄

  • Parajunkee
    November 19, 2009 at 7:26 am

    I love me some Eugenie Markham – from the Dark Swan series (Richelle Mead). She kicks booottieee.

    Great review!

  • renee
    November 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I would have to agree with RK and say Georgina by Richelle Mead aswell,
    reneetaylor at sympatico dot ca

  • Brooke Reviews
    November 19, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I gotta say my favorite will forever be Rachel Morgan! I love the whole series, but she’s by far the best heroine around 😀

  • Carolyn H
    November 19, 2009 at 8:24 am

    😀 Just one. Mmmmm I love so many. I will meantion Luna Wilder of the Nocturne City series is one. I finshed the 4th book. Anita Blake is always one and so is Cat Crawford by Jeaniene Frost.

  • Teresa W.
    November 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

    My favorite is Riley Jensen from Keri Arthur’s series!

  • CrystalGB
    November 19, 2009 at 8:56 am

    My favorite is Riley Jenson from Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson series.

  • Marie
    November 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

    So many to choose from! I would have to say right now, these are the top five:

    Mercy Thompson – Patricia Briggs
    Joanne Baldwin – Rachel Caine
    Kitty Norville – Carrie Vaughn
    Luna Wilder – Caitlyn Kittridge
    Allie Beckstrom – Devon Monk

  • Danielle
    November 19, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I haven’t really read much UF in recent memory, but I do love Rose from Vampire Academy series.

  • Jen D.
    November 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Great review. Thanks for the giveaway.

    It’s to hard to choose one. My top 5 are Rachel Morgan, Elena Michaels, Riley Jenson, Mercy Thompson, and Joanne Baldwin.


  • kimi
    November 19, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I just started to read urban fantasies and have only read Ilona Andrews.

    Kate Daniels is my favorite so far.

  • Kimberly B.
    November 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Elena Michaels, followed closely by Paige Winterbourne and Rachel Morgan. Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • Lisa Richards
    November 19, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Rachel Vincent’s Faythe in the “Werecats” series

  • I Heart Book Gossip
    November 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Mine would be Kate Daniels in Ilona Andrews series.

  • Raelena
    November 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I am going to have to agree with a couple other commentors and say and say Georgina by Richelle Mead as well.

  • Cecilia H.
    November 19, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Right now it’d have to be Sookie Stackhouse, Charlaine Harris’s heroine in love with a vampire. She’s a tough bird with attitude and puts up with a lot from vampires to werewolves…not to mention the normal red-neck male!


  • Natasha A.
    November 19, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I actually just bought this and the first the other day. I can’t WAIT to start reading them. They sound really good.

  • Morning Glow
    November 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Hmmm… I think my favorite would be Cat Crawfield from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I LOVE them. Every so often, even when reading something else, I have to grab one of the Night Huntress books and re-read it quick just to get my fix.

    Morning Glow

  • Dottie
    November 19, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    My favorite urban fantasy would be either Kim Harrison’s (Rachel Morgan) or Jeanne Stein’s (Anna Strong) books, both are great!


    Dottie 🙂

  • Lori T
    November 19, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Mercy Thompson is mine. I love Patricia Briggs’ and her writing is amazing.

  • Tiah
    November 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Kate Daniels is my girl.

  • Stacy
    November 20, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I haven’t ready many yet but Sookie Stackhouse is my favorite so far!

  • Tynga
    November 20, 2009 at 8:49 am

    The competition is pretty close between Rose from VA by Richelle Mead and Faythe from the shifters series by Rachel Vincent.
    I love both girls so much!

    Thanks for the opportunity

  • Deedles
    November 20, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Sookie Stackhouse is my favorite.

  • fallon hadley
    November 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    My favorite is Makayla Lane (Mac) from the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning.

    She is a reformed “good girl” turned bad ass that tries to do good for humanity, even though she has to kill people.

    I am majorly addicted to that series.

    Fallon Hadley 😉 😆 😉

  • Kearsten
    November 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    It’s a toss-up between Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson and Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connelly. I love tough, practical, reluctant heroes (which is why I love Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden as well!).

  • Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy]
    November 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Mercy Thompson is my favorite with Kate Daniels a close second

  • Van P.
    November 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    My favorite Urban Fantasy heroine is Kate Daniels from the Magic Series by Ilona Andrews. She totally kicks butt, independent, smart, and funny. I love her personality. 🙂

    thanks for the giveaway!

  • Donna S
    November 20, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Kitty Norville. Shes smart, funny, strong and can stand up for herself and friends.

  • Cherry
    November 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Please count me in!! I hope that I am still in time to enter the contest!

    Re-posted your contest at http://contests-freebies.blogspot.com/2009/11/win-darker-angels-at-tbs.html

    mischivusfairy-inbox12 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  • Tanya
    November 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Would love to win this book, I have Unclean Spirits..my only thing is ..I wish they wouldn’t have produce it on a small paper back..it’s such a nice cover…

  • alana
    November 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Harry Dresden. I just love him. I’m not even exactly sure what it is I like so much, but he’s my man.

  • Wanda
    November 25, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Definitely Rose from the Vampire Academy series!!!
    I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

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