At the end of "Darkness Unbound", Risa Jones suffered a horrible event, the death of someone she loved more than anyone or anything else in the world. As this book starts, she is still coming to terms with the event, even if it seems like she will never get over it. Once again, she is approached by Director Hunter of the Directorate, who still wants Risa to work for her because of Risa's special skills of traveling beyond the veil, as well as who her father is, because the Directorate also wants to find the keys to the gates of the afterlife that her father helped forge.
But this time, the offer is more quid pro quo. Join the special forces of the Directorate, and Madam Hunter will do everything she can to find the killer of the person Risa loved. And while Risa still isn't happy about working for the Directorate, for this particular consideration, she'll join with them- reluctantly, still, but she'll join.
The Director immediately sets out to give her a job. Someone has been killing the vampire members of the Directorate council. It's not another vampire, and the deaths seem almost suspiciously natural- only the fact that those killed were vampires makes their deaths anything *but* natural. The vampire who was killed also mentioned bad dreams getting worse, just before he died. Risa asks all the usual questions- are you sure it wasn't another vampire? Yes, because if another vampire could just kill him like that, he'd be qualified to take the place of the man who was killed, and nobody has stepped forward to do so. And as far as anyone knows, he hasn't seriously pissed off anyone lately.
Risa takes on the case with Azriel, who travels to the home of the purported next victim, who is already having bad dreams. She lives alone with her lover, who also acts as her servant and majordomo, but thanks to Azriel, she knows that the woman is already doomed to death- Risa can't save her. But Risa can find the connection between the two vampires, and find out who or what wants them dead and why.
Meanwhile, she is also trying to contact her dad again. While he's gone (in the sense of not having a body any longer, but his spirit/soul is somehow still around), she still has to find the keys, which are not only hidden from everyone, but him as well by his former servants, and he has no idea where his servants are, or where they might have hidden the keys he told them to hide. And with just about everyone wanting those keys, knowing both how important they are and the danger they pose to the world, looking for them, and even finding them, is by no means safe. And even just in Risa's life, there are three conflicting interests who want the keys: Azriel the Reaper, Director Hunter, and her father- all of whom want Risa to hand the keys over to them when and if she finds them. Who will Risa choose as the safest and best choice to own the keys? And what will the reactions of the other two be if and when she does find them?
And when Azriel takes steps to protect her by having her bind with an intelligent sword made by the Reapers to help protect and save her life from the danger she keeps flinging herself into, , will Risa survive the binding with a sword that has a mind of its own? And will the sword agree to be owned, or at least possessed by her, or will it take matters into its own hands (so to speak) by burning out her mind if it rejects her?
Wow, another good volume in this series. When I started reading this book, I kept smirking every time the Reaper character was mentioned, and then I figured out why- Axriel was also the name of Gargamel's cat in the Smurfs, which I watched when I was a kid. And every time his name was mentioned, I kept hearing Gargamel calling his cat in my mind, complete with the voice acting. It was rather distracting, but as I got further into the story, the more easily I could push that away and concentrate on what was happening. Though if you're old enough to remember the Smurfs cartoons, you might have that same memory, so it's just a warning.
I enjoyed this book a lot. Yes, Risa ends up working for the Directorate. Unlike Riley, who wanted to work as an agent, and not just a secretary, Risa has been told pretty much her whole life by both Riley and Rhoan *not* to work for the Directorate, and she doesn't really want to at all- she has her own life, and things she wants and needs to be doing, and the Director only wants her for her specific skill, but she'll do it because she has no choice. I also understand why Riley doesn't want Risa to work for the directorate- Hunter is far more manipulative than Riley's own former Boss, and I wouldn't trust her, either. It seems that the Directorate has become a far less nice place than when Riley worked there, and much more secretive and mysterious. Whether that's due to Hunter, or just the people she put in place is debatable, but the changes are there.
I also like the sexual tension between Risa and her current lover, Lucian, the outcast Aedh who was deprived of his wings (and how they were taken away sounds truly awful and horrendous),. and the sneaking sexual tension between her and Azriel, who seems to like her in more than just a comradely way, to the point where even she feels attracted to him, and how he seems to be coming more human, as well as making subtle jokes with her. I recall the same tension between Riley, Quinn, and her soul mate (who died on one of her cases, leaving her to be with Quinn, who she truly did love), and wonder if somewhere down the line, Lucian is going to be revealed as one of the Aedh who want the keys to screw with the gates in some sort of revenge for what the other Aedh did to him, and that he just became Risa's lover to keep an eye on her as well as giving him greater leverage in the event she finds the keys and having some kind of control on her because she fell in love with him or at least cares for him in a loverly way. (Not that I think that would work at this point in time, he's more of a fuck-buddy than an actual lover, she doesn't seem to hold feelings like that for him from what I read, at least not yet).
I enjoyed the book, and I really am getting more invested and interested in the series. I didn't feel as much for her as quickly as I did when I was reading about Riley, and it took me a while to adjust. But I do like the series, and I definitely want to read more. Again, I'm still not as invested in caring for Risa as for Riley, but I think as I read more about her, I will become so. It's a fairly fun series, as we are getting to see more supernaturals who aren't as well-known as the weres and vampires we met before. Recommended.