Queene of Light Mass Market Paperback – Sep 22 2009
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
In the Darkworld, the filth made it difficult to fly. Faery wings were far too gossamer and fragile to withstand the moisture that dripped from the murky blackness overhead or the clinging grime that coated everything, even sentient things, that dared cross over the Darkworld border.
Ayla knelt in the mire, searching the mucky concrete ground for signs of her quarry. She'd had no problem tracking the Werewolf this far. The foolish creature did not even realize it was being followed, and her wings, not delicately made but leathery flaps of nearly Human skin, thick boned and heavy against her back, had given her the speed to keep up with him as he rampaged through the depths of the Dark-world. But they had made her too conspicuous. As she tracked the Wolf, something tracked her.
She heard it, lurking behind her. Whatever followed had wings, feathered, if she guessed correctly from the rustling that echoed through the tunnel like tiny thunder. Perhaps it thought she wouldn't hear it. Or couldn't.
The chill that raced up her spine had little to do with the gusts of cold air that blew through the tunnels. She knew the beast that followed her. She'd heard it spoken of in hushed tones in the Assassins' Guild training rooms. It was a Death Angel.
The stories were too numerous to sort fact from fiction. Some claimed an Angel had the powers of the Vanished Gods. Some dismissed them as no more powerful than a Faery or Elf. And some insisted that to look upon one was death to any creature, mortal or Fae. Once, not long after Ayla had begun her formal Guild training, an Assassin was lost. His body was recovered, impaled upon his own sword, wings ripped from his back. She'd seen him, though Garret, her mentor, had tried to shield her. The marks on the Faery's ashen flesh indicated he had not been cut, but torn, as if by large, clawed hands. The killing blow had come as a mercy.
Whatever the Death Angels were, they did not look kindly upon other immortal creatures.
The blood pounded in her veins as she forced herself to focus on resuming the trail of her Wolf. Pursued or not, she had an assignment to carry out. Until the Death Angel struck, she would ignore his presence.
Closing her eyes, Ayla called up the training she'd received. She reached out with her sightless senses. She could not smell the Wolf, not above the stench of the sewer. She could not hear it. The irritated buzz of her antennae, an involuntary reaction to the tension vibrating through her body, coupled with the rustling of the Death Angel's wings in the shadows behind her, drowned out all other noise. She reached her hands out, feeling blindly across the pocked concrete of the tunnel wall. Deep gouges scored the surface, filled with fading rage. Her fingers brushed the residual energy and her mind lit up with a flare of red. The Wolf had passed this way.
Rising to her feet slowly, she traced the walls with her hands. Here was a splash of blood, blossoming with a neon-bright flare of pain behind her closed eyelids. Innocent, simple blood. There would be a body.
In a crouch, she moved through the tunnel, her arms low to the ground, trailing through the congealed filth there. Something dripped farther down the tunnel. It was audible, like a drop falling from a spigot to a full bucket. There was water ahead.
Dirty water, no doubt contaminated by waste from the Human world above, and the Wolf's victim would be there, as well; the despair and fear of its last moments tainted the air.
She followed the trail of blood and pain, the water rising to her knees, then to her waist. Something brushed her bare skin below the leather of her vest, and her eyes flew open. Floating beside her, split neck to groin, the empty skin of a rat. The Wolf had come this way to feed.
Summoning energy from her chest, she directed it into a ball in her palm. The orb flared bright, and she tossed it above her head to illuminate the space. To her left, another tunnel led deeper into the Darkworld. Another opened ahead of her. In the yolk of the three tunnels, hundreds of eviscerated rats bobbed in the stinking tide.
Rats. My life is forfeit for the sake of rats.
Wading through the sewage, she made her way to a low ledge. Another body waited there. The Werewolf, already twisted and stiff in death, caught between his Wolf and Human states. The grinning rictus of his Human mouth below his half-transformed snout gave testimony to the poison that had killed him before she could, and would have killed the rats if he'd not gotten to them first.
It was said among the Assassins of the Lightworld that Death Angels wait in the shadows for the souls of mortal creatures. The one that had followed the Wolf's trail behind her would not be pleased to find her there when he came to claim his prize.
She spun to face the Death Angel, caught sight of it in her rapidly fading light. Paper-white skin stretched over a hard, muscular body that could have been Human but for the claws at its hands and feet. It hung upside down, somehow gripping the smooth ceiling of the tunnel, its eyes sightless black mirrors that reflected her terrified face. It hissed, spreading its wings, and sprang for her.
Gulping as much of the fetid air as her lungs could hold, Ayla dove into the water. The echo of the creature's body disturbing the surface rippled around her, urging her to swim faster, but her wings twisted in the currents, slowing her and sending shocks of pain through her bones. She propelled herself upward and broke into the air gasping.
In a moment, the creature had her, his claws twisting in her loosened braid. He jerked her head back, growling a warning in a harsh, guttural language. He disentangled his claws from her hair and gripped her shoulder in one massive fist, his other hand raised to strike.
The moment his palm fell on her bare shoulder, she saw the change come over him. Red tentacles of energy climbed like ivy over his fingers, gaining his wrist, twining around his thick, muscled forearm. His hand spasmed and flexed on her arm but he was unable to let go, tied to her by the insidious red veins.
That was another rumor she'd heard about Death Angels. Though they craved mortal souls, the touch of a creature with mortal blood was bitter poison.
With a gasp of disbelief and satisfaction, she raised her eyes to the face of the Death Angel. His eyes, occluded with blood, fixed on her as the veins crept up his neck, covering his face.
"I am half Human," she said with a cruel laugh of relief. Whether the creature understood her or not, she did not care. He opened his mouth and screamed, his voice twisting from a fierce, spectral cry to a Human wail of pain and horror. Ayla's heart thundered in her chest and she closed her eyes, dragging air into her painfully constricted lungs. In her mind she saw the tree of her life force, its roots anchoring her feet, its branches reaching into her arms and head. Great, round sparks of energy raced to the Angel's touch, where her life force pulsed angry red. The pace of the moving energy quickened with her heartbeat, growing impossibly rapid, building and swelling within her until she could no longer withstand the assault.
She wrenched her shoulder free and staggered back, slipping to her knees in the water, sputtering as the foulness invaded her mouth.
The Death Angel stood as if frozen in place, twisting in agony. The stark red faded into his pre-ternaturally white skin. His bloody, empty eyes washed with white, then a dot of color pierced their center. Mortal eyes, mortal color. A mortal body. Ayla clambered to her feet and stared in shock, the rush of her blood and energy still filling her ears. All at once it stopped, and the Death Angel collapsed, disappearing below the water.
In the still of the tunnel, Ayla listened for any other presence. Only the gentle lapping of the water against the curved walls of the tunnel could be heard, no fearsome rustling of wings. Would another Death Angel come for him, now that he was to die a mortal death?
He burst up through the water with a pitiable cry, arms flailing. Ayla screamed, jumping immediately to an attack stance, twin blades drawn. She relaxed when the now-mortal creature dragged himself from the water with shaking arms to collapse on the ledge. His chest heaved with each jerky breath of his newborn lungs, and his limbs trembled with exhaustion. He was no immediate threat.
Curiosity overcame Ayla's training, which dictated she should kill the Darkling where he lay. How many Assassins had the chance to survey their prey this closely? How many had the chance to destroy a Death Angel? Her weapons still at the ready, still poised to carry her into legend with the kill, she moved closer.
The Angel lay on his back, his ebony feathered wings folded beneath him. His hair, impossibly long, lay matted and wet on the cement, dipping into the water. The fierce muscle structure that had made him so strong remained, but his body twitched, sapped of strength.
It seemed wrong, cowardly to kill him in such a state.
An Assassin knows no honor. An Assassin knows no pity. AnAssassin is no judge to bestow mercy, but the executioner of those who have already been sentenced, those Darklings who shun the truth of Light. The geis, seared into her brain through hours of endless repetition, burned her anew, and she lifted her knives to deliver the killing blow. His eyes slid open, flickered over her hands and the weapons she held.
With a deep breath and a whispered prayer, Ayla closed her eyes. "Badb, Macha, Nemain, guide my hand that you might collect your trophy sooner than later."
He made no noise as her daggers fell. If he had, perhaps she would have been able to finish the job. But when she opened her eyes, saw the flashing blades poised to pierce his throat and sever his spine, saw his face impassive…
Her hands opened and the knives clattered to the ledge. She did not retrieve them. Let him have something to defend himself from the creatures that would come for him, the ones who would not kill him as quickly as she would have, if she had been mindful of the geis. She had never broken an oath in her life, but no power on Earth or in the long dissipated Astral Realms could turn her head to look on him again or stop her as she waded into the tunnel that had brought her there.
He cried out then, when she was out of sight, but it was not to her. Probably to his One God, begging for help. But there had never been a God or Goddess in the Underground. Ayla knew she alone heard his prayer, and it haunted her all the way to the Lightworld.
Malachi never understood why they fell. Mortals were so bland and pink and fleshy. So uninteresting when compared to the glory of Heaven. Why fall, just to become one of them and whither and die, growing old with each breath?
As he did now.
Top Customer Reviews
Sometimes I find when readings books dealing with Fae/Faery/ Fey/ you know what I am talking about regardless of the spelling, hauntingly beautiful creatures, sometimes with or without wings, that like to play little tricks and mind games on human, are allergic to iron and whatnot, I find that you have to have some previous knowledge of how the Faery world works, for instance the Dark and Light Courts, the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts, the Winter and the Summer Courts, The Great Hunt and things along those lines. When I was reading the first thirty or so pages of this book I felt like I did not understand anything that was going on... I don't know if if is because I am used to reading about the Summer and Winter Courts in books by authors like Melissa Marr and the Seelie/ Unseelie Courts Holly Black, that I found it difficult to completely understand/ comprehend how this world of Faeries is organized and structured. However, I was fortunately soon able to pick up the general idea of how it is structured/ its happenings and whatnot (but you know, after 30 pages into it ;) ).
It is a nice take on the world of the faeries... It kind of reminds me of the "Artemis Fowl" series, the human live above ground and the faeries live below ground, and at the same time reminding me of "Avatar", with the big beautiful tree of life thinger. The world isn't so hauntingly beautiful that humans cannot grasp/ comprehend such beauty like many faery stories, everything in this world is almost downtrodden or muted.
I really like this book, it is probably the best book I have read within the last month or so...Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Ayla is a half-human, half faerie asssassin for the faerie court, bound by oath and training, and Malachi is a Death Angel, tasked with harvesting the souls of the dead. Their chance meeting and interaction from that point on have great consequences for all the denizens of the underground ways, ranging from plots to overthrow the Queene of faeries to involving the Dragons in the war between faeries and demons.
As a plot basis, the above is reasonable. But I found myself quite unimpressed with the final result, due to multiple factors. First, the romance between Ayla and Malachi has no solid grounding and very little exposition of growing attraction through interaction. To be believable, this needed much greater detailing, a more comprehensive look inside their heads and a consistent building towards their mutual attraction. Second was the Dark/Lightworld itself, as I could never get a good mental picture of it; the descriptions were too vague and concentrated on only a couple of aspects of the place, and what description there was seemed to imply that this world was very small - small enough to walk across in a day, which doesn't seem a reasonable size to host the stated multiple races. Third was the motivations of some the secondary characters, who as supposed immortals displayed a depressing venality and ambitions at odds with long life spans. The conclusion was weak and depended upon a `reveal', information hidden from the reader that shouldn't have been.
This could have been a very interesting place to visit, but as detailed here, I'm afraid I won't be coming back for any future visits.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
The book starts out promisingly with a young Assassin who's half-Fae (fairy), half-human, Ayla. Ayla has been assigned to track were-wolves and keep them out of the Lightworld and away from the Fae Court, ruled by Queen Mabb. Ayla is also the protegé of a very nasty Fae named Garret, who is the Queen's brother, and who can be quite charming when he feels like it. So when Ayla is asked to become Garret's mate, even though she feels something isn't right about Garret's request, she acquiesces -- mainly because Garret hasn't yet shown the worst aspects of his nature (which are plenty bad, as you'll see if you read this book).
But during the assignment to track and kill a were-wolf, Ayla inadvertently touches a Death Angel -- one of the Heavenly Host who was cast down when the Ethereal plane fell. This Death Angel, Malachi, harvests the souls of the dead in the hopes that eventually all will be returned to the Creator, even though his God has been lost to him. And Ayla touching him precipitates his full fall into humanity; his wings are rent by his eternal brethren, and no pity or mercy is shown. (Technically, the angels are in the Darkworld portion of the underground, because they mean the humans no ill will. Which is one clue that things are not as idyllic as Ayla believes at first.)
Malachi is befriended by Keller, an augmented and telepathically talented human. Keller makes for some much-needed comic relief, and was a very welcome addition to this book; his humanity, and his common sense, is the perfect foil for both the terribly bemused and bewildered Malachi, and the colder-than-she-wishes-to-be Ayla. How they all come together, and what Ayla's ultimate destiny is, is for you to read -- but I believe if you like fantasy with paranormal or spiritual elements, you'll enjoy this book.
With all that being said, you might be asking, "So, Barb. If you like this book so much, and gave it four stars, why did you say right off in your title that it wasn't as good as you'd hoped?" Well, this is because of two things -- and they involve some spoilers, so please look away if you don't want your reading spoiled.
**** spoiler alert below ****
Ready? (This is your last chance to look away.)
**** spoilers below ****
Anyway, there are two points that severely irritated me in this book, and as I got a completed copy (not an ARC), I am going to comment on them.
First, there are a number of typos that are inexcusable. Sometimes, Ayla's name is given as "Ayfa." And early on, perhaps on page one of this book, "whither" is used rather than the proper word, "wither." These typos require a human proofer or editor's lookover; no spell-check in the world is going to catch them. Further, it's possible that the typographers messed up (with "whither" in particular, being so early on), but once again, human intervention in the process would've fixed this.
This is not the author's fault, but it needs to be addressed by someone in authority because it is distracting; it kept throwing me out of the reader's trance, and kept me from fully being immersed in this world. I have no idea if a non-writer/editor would have picked up on this, but I do know that any reasonably well-read person will know that "whither" is out of place when you're talking about something akin to "withering on the vine." Just no excuse for that error.
Second, I was really upset at Keller's off-screen death. What was the point of this? Keller was my favorite character here, but I knew he'd not survive the book; even so, if you're going to kill him, Ms. Armintrout, do so in a way where I can grieve with Malachi. Even though you've set it up that Malachi can't grieve because of his own nature, you wrote Malachi's POV so well that I easily would've understood the grief Malachi felt in losing his first real friend, the person who explained human love to him, and who explained that love was worth fighting for even when difficult, or damned near impossible.
These two flaws -- the second far more so than the first -- are why I cannot say this is a five-star book, and one worthy of instant classic status, despite the amazing skill Ms. Armintrout has with her wordplay, her plotline, her powers of description, and her dialogue. Ms. Armintrout did an outstanding job here -- in all respects but one (and even there, it's possible she wrote the scene, but the editorial staff believed it needed to be cut for space limitations) -- and I wanted to give "Queene of Light" all the respect it deserves.
**** end spoiler discussion
The philosophical question at the heart of this book, as a few other reviewers have mentioned already, is this: if you're called Dark, are you? Even if you live in filth? And if you're called Light, are you? Even if, inside (as is the noxious Garret), you're evil and twisted and sick?
This question was treated soberly, yet in an action-packed and thoroughly unique way by "Queene of Light." Which is why I really wanted to like this book more. And though it absorbed me completely from beginning to end (minus those distracting bits of being thrown out of the reader's trance), it unfortunately falls short of the twenty or thirty very best fantasy books I've ever read.
Still. It's a good story. I plan on reading book two of this trilogy. And I admire Ms. Armintrout's skill with words.
The upshot is, I recommend this book to anyone who reads spiritually-based or paranormally-based fantasy. It's interesting, it has much to recommend it, and should find a wide audience.
Four stars. Recommended.
Legend has it that there are Death Angels in Darkworld, powerful creatures that kill without mercy. Ayla can understand this, as it is her job to kill without missing a beat. When she realises that she is being followed by one of these Death Angels, she is ready for a fight. No one has lived to see another day after an encounter with one of these creatures, and she is determined to share her story.
Malachi is a Death Angel, and has no feelings for other creatures. It is his duty to remove creatures from the Darkworld that will cause harm to humans. When he encounters Ayla, he brings it upon himself to rid the world of the Fae creature. What he doesn't know is that Ayla is not only Fae, but half-human as well. Touching her is the end of his immortality, and now he is out for revenge.
This is the first installment in Jennifer Armintrout's new trilogy, Lightworld/Darkworld. I must say, that I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was written as though it were a historical novel, which was surprising to me, although it had a few modern things about it. Armintrout's characters fight with weapons such as swords, daggers, and axes, because this is what they were able to bring with them when they were banished beneath the streets of the Up World.
Armintrout's characters are very well rounded. Throughout this novel you will learn a lot about Ayla, and how she became an assassin for the Light World. In the beginning there seemed to be some holes, but throughout the story they were filled in perfectly. I also really enjoyed Malachi's character. He was new, and fresh to the mortal world, and we got to experience it all through his eyes.
I have read Jennifer Armintrout's first series, Blood Ties, and enjoyed it very much. I honestly can say that after reading the first book in this new trilogy, it is my new favorite work of hers. I'm thrilled that she decided to write about creatures other than Vampires, because she has done a wonderful job of it. I can't wait to read the final two books in this series, Child of Darkness and Veil of Shadows.
If you liked Jennifer Armintrout's previous series, you should really give this book a shot. I read it fairly quickly, as it is only 375 pages long, according to the advanced copy that I received. It is full of magical creatures of all kinds, not just Fae and Death Angels. There are also Werewolves, Dragons, Trolls, and even Pixies. It does have romance, but it is not the whole of the story, it is just something that makes this book whole. I'd like to thank Adam from Mira Books for sending me an advanced copy of this book. I was so thrilled when he agreed to let me review it. I'd also like to thank Jennifer Armintrout herself, for stopping by my blog early in June to notice my Waiting on Wednesday post featuring this book. It was her that drove me to contact Adam in the first place.
I didn't love it. And in fact, I very nearly stopped reading spang in the middle of the first chapter because it was so over-written I wanted to fling the book out the window. Adjectives don't make writing better. Rather, good writing will sometimes employ well-chosen adjectives to enhance the narrative. However, I admit that the writing calmed down after that first chapter, and I settled in a bit, not exactly enjoying what I was reading but not hating it. Unfortunately, along with some persistent irritants -- Why "queene" and not "queen?" why "Mabb" and not "Mab?" The simpler forms are almost always a better choice unless you have some specific reason to change your words. -- I found both the story and characterization to be pedestrian.
If this had been sold as a romance I might well have been easier with it. Not that I expect romances to be less competently written than fantasy, far from it. Good writing is good writing. Period. Rather, I would have looked for a different focus; less emphasis on the fantasy elements and more on the relationships. But even as a romance, this book didn't work for me because the characters are so flat. Malachi, instead of inspiring a rush of romantic yearning in this feminine breast, seemed like a clueless lump to me. I cut him a lot of slack at first because he was necessarily disoriented by what had happened to him, but he never changed. And Ayla (unfortunate choice of name given that the character of Ayla in the "Clan of the Cave Bear" series is almost an iconic figure.) isn't a whole lot more complex, nor are Garrett and Mabb. In fact, the most interesting character in the book is a secondary character named Keller. I don't think I am alone in finding him interesting, I think the author liked him a great deal as well because the narrative seems to spark when he's in the room.
The setting and the supernatural elements all seemed to have been not very well thought out. It felt as if things like trolls and pixies were tossed in just to make things seem more fantastic, but they never really enriched the story in any way. The worlds seemed badly drawn as well. As other reviewers have mentioned, the notion that people live in a place where you have to wade through sewer sludge seems questionable at best.
I truly wish I had better things to say about this book. As it is, I was just grateful when I could put it down.