Friday, December 24, 2010

The Underworld Cycle: Book one- Mob Rules by Cameron Haley

Domino Riley is the Chief Enforcer for the Rashan Mob, one of the many criminal groups that run L.A. Unlike in the real world, the mobs that rule this L.A. run on magical power, and the businesses they run confer not just money or drugs, but actual magical juice to the mobs that control that territory. Unfortunately for Domino, one of her mob's men, a tagger named Jamal James, has been killed in his apartment, and skinned, then hung on a bondage rack and left there.

Domino is summoned to the scene by another one of her gang, Anton Shevakov, the same guy who found the body. And while Domino knows that Anton had nothing to do with the death, the death worries her, because Jamal was a really excellent tagger. His tags could actually increase the flow of juice, or magical power, that the gang received from the streets. She wonders if another gang tried to take him out when Jamal turned down an offer to work for them, or just simply took him down as a preparation for some kind of gang war. But the fact that Jamal is missing his skin, and almost all of his magical power, is also rather disturbing. Jamal's been sucked dry like an empty juice bag, and there are very few things that could do that.

Not that Domino knows what those things are herself. But she has a Djinn trapped in a black and white TV in her home that may be able to tell her. Or she could just try and summon Jamal's spirit to tell her himself. But something is interfering with her connection to Jamal's spirit, and she can only get a few words out of him before his spirit vanishes. Domino thinks something with the way Jamal was killed is causing the interference, and nothing, not the genie she has imprisoned inside the television in her apartment nor all the spells she can muster up, seem to be able to get through the interference.

So, who killed Jamal and why? Jamal was a skilled tagger, able to create tags that sucked up lots of magical energy from the areas that her mob controls. And apparently, there were other mobs sniffing around, eager to get Jamal to work for them. But as far as she knows, Jamal was happy with her group and refused any and all such offers. But could that be a reason for someone to kill him, to deny his ability to Domino's mob? With not much else to go on, Domino investigates Papa Danwe's voodoo mob, who had been sniffing around Jamal.

But distracting her at this rather inconvenient time is Adan, one of her boss Rashan's sons. Domino has long thought Adan was hotter than the surface of the sun, but now he finally seems to be paying attention to her, when he isn't hanging out with vampires and other assorted lowlifes. He can't be part of his father's organization, because he has no magic whatsoever, but that doesn't stop him from being smoking hot, and Domino is quite attracted to him. But soon she suspects that he's been possessed, and that whatever is inside him is what killed Jamal. She wants to throw out the interloper and keep her lover, but that may not be possible. Another of her crew has also been killed in the same way as Jamal. a man by the name of Jimmy Lee, and Papa Danwe's crew has built some sort of magic cannon that just might be aimed at Rashan's outfit.

Add into the mix trips into otherworld to try and find out what is happening to Adan and to try and free him of whatever is possessing him, as well as a female fairy that seems determined to get into Domino's pants, and a magical gun that can kill whatever it hits, and Domino's day is shaping up to be very bad indeed. Can she survive the threats against her organization and save the man she is coming to love, or will the entirety of L.A. go up in flames before she can even find some time to be with Adan?

I don't usually find criminals all that interesting, but Domino caught me in her fist and drew me from the very first page. She's a pretty kickass magical girl, but nothing comes easy for her, and she also has a defined role in her organization. She's a troubleshooter, and given the magical nature of the gangs of L.A., the kind of trouble she shoots is all too apt to be the kind that shoots back at her.

This is the normal world, dragged ninety degrees off kilter from our own. Gangs exist, but they run on magic and magical power rather than guns, drugs and prostitution. Of course, many of the same activities gangs run in our world provide magical "juice" in Domino's world. Prostitution and gambling seem to be the primary illlegal generators of magical power, but more also comes from the feelings and emotions of people. The more juice that is generated in the streets, the more tense and unsettled things become on the streets, like magical feedback that ramps the whole thing higher and higher. Too much juice and there will be rioting in the streets, even by normal people.

And in addition to the real world, there is at least two more, one of which Domino visits during the course of the story. The end of the book sets up the situation for additional stories, and I honestly hope that things turn out better for Domino in future books than they did in this one. This book is an introduction to a strange new world, both slightly and very different from our own, but I can only hope that more books come out in this series, as I found it intriguing and fun to read. Highly recommended.

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