Even an FBI Agent with the Magical Crimes Division deserves to take some personal time now and then. That's why touch-sensitive Lily Yu is in Halo, NC with her mate Rule Turner, Lu Nuncio of the Nokolai lupi clan and holder of the mantles of both Nokolai and Leidolf. They've traveled to the town where Rule's son has been living to attend the hearing that will finally award Rule custody of nine-year-old Toby.
Unfortunately for Lily, deserving something doesn't necessarily mean getting it.
Tucked up in bed on the night they arrived, she gets jerked out of sleep by a phone call from Rule. While on a run in nearby woods the lupi prince caught scent of the mangled and decomposing bodies of a mother and her two children. The scene was ugly, the grave shallow and bodies disturbed by dogs. What most troubled Rule, though, was that under the scent of natural decay is the more insidious and corrupt bouquet of death magic.
Before she could even unpack, personal time was a distant memory, replaced by the case of a magically perpetrated and heinous murder. And just to add the cherry to that disturbing sundae, it's the sort of crime that - according to all magical knowledge - shouldn't have even been possible. How do you catch a killer who shouldn't exist before he does more vicious and deadly things he shouldn't be able to do?
Perhaps not one of the more flashy urban fantasy series, Wilks' World of the Lupi series distinguishes itself with extraordinary world building and a unique cast of believable, likable characters. In this fifth book, the focus is back on main characters Lily and Rule, and as is the standard for the series, a pleasant balance between otherworldly danger and day-to-day trials and tribulations.
Mortal Sins hearkens back to the first book in the series, with its magical crime and the search for the perpetrator featuring aspects of an accomplished police procedural blended with the supernatural. Lily isn't the ubiquitous kick ass urban fantasy heroine, leather clad and carrying a big sword. She's slight of frame, of Asian descent, and while she's as tenacious as a terrier when set loose on a case, she's also the quintessential FBI agent. Despite her Gift as a touch sensitive, she's about as normal a character as I've seen in the genre, with such superb backstory and development that she's utterly believable and real.
Then again, Wilks has a true gift with characters, be they main, secondary, or ancillary. They are all rather remarkably three dimensional, with a depth and substance that is distressingly rare in so very many books and series once you step beyond main characters.
As top dog, no pun intended, Rule's backstory, the mythos surrounding his heritage, issues with his son, and the clans he serves all blend together to define a remarkable man of honor and integrity. A man who stands as testament to tradition even as he stands strong on the side of sweeping change. I love the dichotomy and the stability in him as a character.
I also love how the dominant Rule respects and treats Lily and the bond between them. There aren't a whole lot of series in the genre that feature and highlight the evolution of a genuine relationship between the male and female lead. I wish there were more, because I thoroughly enjoy exploring the lives of couples after the Happily Ever Afters.
Rule and Lily have been together since the first book, thanks to a bond from the Goddess that Rule's people worship. That bond has caused as many problems as its solved...maybe more, actually...and it's been quite the journey seeing their relationship evolve into what seems in this book to be a solid foundation with a few minor issues. And it was truly a delight to have some of those issues that have been nagging me from the first book get truly and spectacularly addressed in this one.
I wasn't totally invested in the main conflict of the killer plotline in this book. It seemed a little ragged and insubstantial compared to conflicts and bad guys we've seen in previous books. I also felt keenly the absence of many of the secondary characters I've grown fond of since the series started, and felt a little overwhelmed by the number of new names and faces involved in the race to find and stop the killer.
On the flip side, I loved the attention given to Rule's battle for his son, and thought the scenes surrounding Toby were some of my favorites in the book. He's such a little man; more mature than most nine-year-olds, maybe, but still so precocious and charming. This was a thread that felt like a long time coming and I was glad it finally got to get some page time.
While Mortal Sins isn't my favorite in the series so far, it struck me as a very solid addition full of the sort of quality storytelling that sets apart this underrated series. It had the feel of a transitional book in places, actually, with some significant issues being tidied up and some new dangers and complications left dangling like tasty little morsels teasing the hungry palate. Given the scope of those teasers, Wilks has much more up her sleeves to entertain loyal readers. I don't intend to miss it.
Interested readers should start at the beginning, though, because this is definitely a cumulative series, with characters evolving and story expanding and building up from a single starting point in the first book. There is exposition provided, of course, but too much has happened to too many people for that to be sufficient to readers unfamiliar with the world.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.