Darkness Haunts by Susan Illene
A well-written tale of danger, action and supernatural intrigue.
Melena Sanders faced her fair share of danger with insurgents and terrorists when she served in the U.S. Army, but now she is about to go up against a new threat.
Her best friend, Aniya, has disappeared while on a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska – a supernatural haven. Most humans have no idea darker races lurk amongst them.
Mel knows better. If she wants to get her friend back, she’s going to have to go in alone – but not unarmed. Melena has a few special skills the Army didn’t provide, but the odds are still against her.
Review by Tim Greaton:
Susan Illene is an impressive new author who has successfully translated her military skills and love for all creatures supernatural into a convincing and well-written tale of danger, action and supernatural intrigue. Her world, a parallel civilization to our own, is crawling with vampires, werewolves, witches and pixies–and that’s only the start. If you can imagine a creature of legend, chances are you’ll find it here, running a local dance club, living in an apartment next door or driving a bus load of children to school. In short, I utterly loved the merging of our modern world with Illene’s brand of legend and lore.
Melena Sanders would be a normal, attractive, retired military girl (much like the author, it would appear from the bio) if it weren’t for two unusual abilities: Melena can sense and recognize any supernatural creature, no matter what kind of disguise it might be wearing, and she is completely immune to magic. Unfortunately for her, those are two traits that supernatural creatures (sups as we come to know them) absolutely abhor. So, Melena might as well be wearing a target on her back when she travels from California to Alaska in search of a missing friend. The fact that this rural, northern state boasts one of the highest concentrations of sups in the country makes her quest all the more perilous.
The twists and turns of the story are fun, surprising and, in some cases, shocking. There are moments when it seems almost certain that Melena cannot survive, and her ever-deepening and varied relationships make this a must-read for anyone drawn to the supernatural and paranormal genres. I especially love the interaction and evolution of her relationship with Lucas, a powerful nephilim who seems to want her dead and alive at the same time.
This is a truly fascinating first book, and I expect to be an early customer for book two in this “Sensor” series.
Review by Theo:
Darkness Haunts is an impressive first novel. It is the product of someone who clearly knows how to write, and how to get the reader involved in a story. I’ve actually had rather good luck with indie authors myself (perhaps because I pay careful attention to the reviews here on Amazon!), but I’m well aware that there are others who haven’t. So the main thing I’d say on that front is that yes, this is a fully professional effort.
By the standards of urban fantasy, the world of Darkness Haunts is fairly traditional. If, like me, you spent a large chunk of the `90s playing games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse, this is fundamentally a landscape you’re already well familiar with. It’s not identical to the world of such games, of course. But there are no huge breaks with tradition.
Yet despite all this, the very label “urban fantasy” is in some ways an ironic one. For although clearly placed in our own modern – and very much real – world, much of the action of Darkness Haunts unfolds in rural and semi-wilderness landscapes. It’s here the author’s world-crafting skills are given more free reign. What Illene has built here is sufficiently compelling that I’d actually be rather interested to see how she’d handle a more mundane story set against a similar backdrop.
If I had to mark out one thing that prevents me from giving this story five stars, I’d have to say I wouldn’t have minded more – dare I say it? – “Shades of Gray” in the characters. The best way I can put it is like this: Melena, our heroine, is kind of like Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker always does the right thing because it’s the right thing. That’s just who and what Luke Skywalker is. Personally, I prefer my heroes with a bit more Han Solo or Lando Calrissian in them. People who maybe do the right thing in the end, but who are also human enough to at least be sorely tempted along the way. People who at least toy with the idea that they might just take the money and run!
But that really may be gilding the lily. Because the bottom line here is that this book is, quite simply, a riveting adventure.