It's true...I'm a Phoenix Chronicles fangirl of major proportions. To me it's the biggest urban fantasy buried treasure out there. So rather than reviewing it on my blog that exactly five people read, I'm going to be the first to review it here on Amazon, in the hopes that more people will read it, and then start reading the series.
Chaos Bites is the fourth book in Lori Handeland's series and I wonder why, oh why, aren't more people addicted to what has got to be the best urban fantasy series out there after Keri Arthur's Riley Jensen series? Now that the ninth and final book in that series is about to be released, it's the perfect time to make the switch, and help propel Handeland's series into the stratosphere, where it most assuredly belongs.
Elizabeth Phoenix, like many an urban fantasy heroine, owes a lot to her predecessors, but she has as much in common with J.D. Robb's Lt. Eve Dallas as she does, say, LKH's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It's true that, like Anita - and Merry and Riley and Sookie - she's got more than one suitor, but the one-time foster child turned cop turned Leader of the Light makes me wonder what might have happened had Eve had psychometric powers, and been brought up in Ruthie's care. Frankly, to compare Elizabeth to Eve is an incredible compliment, and one I don't make lightly.
For the unintiated, the series began with Any Given Doomsday. After the death of her foster mother Ruthie, Elizabeth Phoenix becomes leader of the light against the Nephilim - dangerous off-spring of fallen angels and their human lovers - who plan to destroy humanity. Jimmy Sanducci, the one-time love of her life who later betrays her, becomes her partner; he is a demon hunter and she is the seer who ferets out the Nephilim for him to kill. In order to come fully into her powers, though, she must spend more time with Sawyer, the Navajo shaman she once studied with at Ruthie's behest. Sawyer is far more than a shaman; he's a skinwalker and can shapeshift when the tatoos of various animals on his body are activated. Though Liz fears Sawyer, she is inexplicably drawn to him and discovers she can only learn the answers to certain questions through sex, such as that she is a sexual empath, able to take on the magic and powers of her supernatural partners through orgasm (shades of Merry Gentry, but not really).
Liz becomes both a seer and demon hunter, and is able to shape-shift herself. She must form alliances at times with Jimmy, Sawyer, and Summer - the fairy Jimmy betrayed Liz with - through varying levels of wariness and enmity. In particular, Summer and Liz hate each other, neither Jimmy nor Liz trust Sawyer, but as the story progresses, each character must cross into the dark side in order to defeat it. Nephilim armies led by a vampiric witch who is also Jimmy's father, an unspeakably evil smoke-witch who gave birth to Sawyer, and her own previously unknown birth-mother (hint: it all has to do with Liz's last name) lay waste to entire towns along the way and as Chaos Bites begins, she is coping with the aftermath of ripping Sawyer's heart out of his chest while it was still beating to prevent the Apocalypse.
So how is he appearing in her dreams and leaving his scent behind when she awakens? And just how did his baby, whom she names Faith, end up on her doorstep? Because Liz accepted a demon in order to save the world, Ruthie can no longer speak directly to her. Instead, she speaks through Luther, an adolescent lion-shifter, who informs her she must give the baby into Jimmy's care and seek out the shape-shifter who mentored Sawyer for her next step in defeating the Nephilim.
Faith is no ordinary baby; she's a skinwalker as well, which Liz and Luther discover when covering her with a baby blanket festooned with kittens. And somebody wants her...badly. But why? Through one of her mystical, sexual visitations with Sawyer she learns that it's not what Faith is now - it's who/what she'll become. And that mystery is not solved by the end of the book. No, by the end of the book Liz has traveled to the Badlands where the old shape-shifter lives, and then to New Orleans, where a Nephilim guarded by flying, organ-pecking night-creatures himself guards a mythical book while awaiting the Anti-Christ.
To say any more about the storyline would give spoilers, which I absolutely will not do, but what I can add is this: Chaos Bites is a read-in-one-sitting, action-packed book. It not only reveals even more strongly the seedy under-side involved in saving the world, it illuminates a side of Liz we've not really seen, a more womanly and - dare I say? - maternal side. And it's here where I connect Liz Phoenix with Eve Dallas. Neither knows how to change a diaper, or what to feed a baby. But both women care about those they love, even when deeply conflicted.
More aspects of Liz reveal themselves as each book progresses, and her willingness to cross the line as the stakes are raised is not easy for her. That the author expresses this so well is one of the reasons I love the series. Her strong moral compass...shot to hell. It's impossible to stay clean when killing evil incarnate with such frequency that you buy clothes and sneakers in bulk at Wal-Mart so as not to stay covered in blood and brains as you check into another seedy motel.
While this is definitely a page-turner, at times the story moved a little too fast for me. I wanted things to slow down so I could more easily digest what was going on, but the pace didn't allow for it. Reading this series is like being on a wild ride; you don't get off until it's over. When you do, that's when you can think through every twist and turn, all while waiting in line for the next ride. Too bad it won't start for another several months.