Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of White Serpent, Black Dragon by Joe Jackson

Author: Joe Jackson

Length: 395 Pages/ 19 Hours, 58 Minutes (Audio)

Publisher: Aethon Books

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Narrator: Chelsea Stephens

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 Stars


I may have mentioned before that second books can be hit or miss, since sometimes the sophomore slump is a real thing. I've had a streak of good luck lately with second books, and this is no exception. It continues on from the first book, Salvation's Dawn, and really delves into the world of Citaria and the threat to the world.


Five years after the events in Salvation's Dawn, Kari Vanador, resurrected demon hunter, is now living in the city of Darkwind, where she is the head instructor for the god Zalkar's demon hunter trainees. She is happily living with her mate Grakin and their son in his family's home, protected by his mother's powers as high priestess of their pantheon's head god. Life is good, especially after the life altering events five years earlier.

This all changes when a visiting noble, the infamous Lord of Barcon, Kaelen Black, comes to Kari's order in the city of Darkwind to request help finding a serial killer in his city. Given the opportunity to help, Kari jumps at it, feeling her skills are needed in the field. When Lord Black is attacked by a succubus assassin while waiting to return to Barcon, Kari realizes something else is going on besides a serial killer. Commencing her journey, Kari gathers up some allies on the way to Barcon, including Eli, a half demon warrior who worked for Kari's predecessor in the order during the Apocalypse, who has some idea what may be happening in the background, as well as Katrina and Sherman, apprentice paladins Kari met on her mission five years earlier. 

Moving on to Barcon flying on griffonback, Kari and her allies meet with Black, and find that not only is there a serial killer running around, but the local assassins guild leader, Blackwing, is also engaging in a covert war with Black. The real problem for Kari is that it seems Black and Blackwing look exactly alike, and her order thinks Black might be Blackwing, making him a murderous assassin leader. This uncertainty leaves Kari uncertain how to proceed until events occur that clear the situation significantly, and also revealing that there is another player on the field: Emma, the powerful demon sorceress Kari ran into five years earlier on that fateful mission. This simple job of finding a serial killer has turned into a life threatening conspiracy that threatens to unleash an impossible evil on the world if Kari and her group, as well as some new allies met in Barcon, don't stop Emma and the succubus assassin's opposing plans. Kari is forced to use the many fighting skills gained in two lifetimes to try and defeat a fighter who just may be better than her, which most would consider close to impossible. What results has long term consequences for Kari, her allies, and her order.


As with Salvation's Dawn, the characters are the driving force in this story. Kari especially is a fantastic characters. Strong and talented, she has flaws that eat at her throughout the book, and almost cost her life a time or two. While she's strong and capable, she's in no way overpowered, and she makes mistakes just like everyone else. She is very easy to empathize with, and you find yourself rooting for her through success and failures alike. The secondary characters, such as Eli and the twins, are all well written, with strengths and flaws, and some interesting back stories as well that really help to flesh them out. The villains are all interesting, having competing goals and plans to bring them about, and this really helps flesh them out.

The world building is also excellent, with Darkwind and Barcon as settings creating a really interesting atmosphere to the story. Barcon especially is drawn out very well, giving you a real feel of what the city is really like, from the slums to Lord Black's Fortress. The city inhabitants add to the world building as well, especially the clergy of the various gods, who play such a big part in various parts of the story. All told, you can immerse yourself in the settings and fit right in.


As I said, this is definitely a case where there is no second book letdown. In fact, it takes what made the first book so good, adds a deeper story line with greater consequences that hint at a huge underlying conspiracy, and creates an engrossing story that will have you turning pages and wanting more when its over. You can't ask for much more than that. It's definitely epic fantasy at it's finest.

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