D.D. Barant: Killing Rocks

Ever since she was “reassigned” to an alternate reality, FBI profiled Jace Valcheck has dealt with an increasingly strange series of cases. She’s fought elder gods and time travelers, vampires and werewolves, golems and comic book cults, and she’s slowly getting the hang of surviving in a world where humans are but the tiniest percentage of the world’s population. With her vampire boss and golem partner, she tackles cases no sane person would touch, all the while looking to hunt down the rogue shaman responsible for abandoning her here.

Jace and team are hot on the bad guys’ trail, looking to crash a meeting in Vegas which could finally nab them the world’s most dangerous terrorists and arms dealers, when something goes horribly wrong. First, Jace is waylaid and impersonated by a perky shapechanger named Azura. Second, the meeting turns out to be a setup. With her team dead or incapacitated, it’s a horrible time for golems everywhere to throw off their servile state and take up a militant stance for human rights, but that’s what happens. With golems rebelling, it would be an even worse time for parts of Las Vegas to be transposed with pieces of an alternate world, but again, that’s what happens.

Now Jace has to stop her oldest enemies from completing a spell aimed at world domination. Unfortunately, everyone she usually relies on is missing or gone over to the other side, and her only real ally is Azura, who definitely has her own agenda. As their adventure spans multiple worlds, they’ll both discover some uncomfortable truths about past and future, and Jace will learn just why she’s so important to an immortal sociopath’s plans. On the bright side, maybe she’ll get to go home soon.

Welcome to another installment of the urban fantasy series that seems to reinvent itself with each new book. While in theory, it’s about a human FBI profiler struggling to find her way home from a strange world, Barant goes all-out in making each book a little different, a little bigger, a little weirder. In this one, we’re introduced to yet another alternate reality, one in which things took a different path altogether, and another fascinating new character joins the cast. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Azura; she’s a complex, entertaining, quirky bag of tricks, and she plays perfectly off of Jace. The two make a great team as they work together.

Of course, when it comes to supporting characters, no one can beat Charlie Aleph, the ambulatory bag of sand powered by the spirit of a T. Rex. He’s one of those concepts which just doesn’t come along every day, and a definite keeper. Throw him up against Jace’s sarcastic, pop culture quipping, headstrong personality, and you have an unbeatable dynamic. Here, we really see their friendship stretched to the limits, with some rather tense moments. We also see more of the moments which shaped and defined Jace early in her career, and they’re quite telling indeed.

Killing Rocks has everything I love in an urban fantasy series: a unique concept and intriguing setting, a capable and intelligent protagonist, and a fine blend of action, magic, and humor. It remains a cut above in a genre where you have to work increasingly hard to stand out, and is well worth checking out.

(St. Martins, 2011)

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