The Key Guardians, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: TKA Distribution
Date of Publication: April 7, 2015
Number of pages: 378
Word Count: 118,000
Cover Artist: Maureen Cutajar
Hiding places are scarce when both Heaven and Hell intend to find you.I want to start this review with the acknowledgement that even though there is a hot, half naked guy on the cover, this is NOT a romance in any, way, shape or form. If you are looking at him thinking, "ooh, yummy guy gets the girl", let me disabuse you of that notion right now. This isn't a story with even romantic leanings. This is Urban Fantasy and no one is promised a happy ending.
Dani Fayel’s backbreaking job as a stable hand at The Freaks’ Fair isn’t glamorous, but for someone looking to keep to the shadows? It’s perfect. Neither paranormal freaks nor human norms ever notice her. But when Dani is forced to either let a child die in order to maintain her anonymity or choose to save him and risk being discovered, she finds herself unwillingly thrust into the spotlight.
Cain, Hell’s premier assassin and a predatory incubus, is close to fulfilling his final contract and earning his freedom. Hired by the Archangel of Death to find his daughter, Cain follows her trail to the Fair. He works undercover, certain his mark is inside one of the portable canopies or traveling cages. Dead or alive, she equals his ticket to freedom.
When Cain’s objective is divulged, Dani realizes she can’t outrun her destiny. As the fabled Key—the one soul with absolute free will who is tied to the three realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell—only she is capable of opening the gates for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Whoever frees the Horsemen allegedly commands them. Now both Heaven and Hell are vying for her allegiance, and there are no limits as to how dirty they’ll fight to obtain it. With Hell raining indiscriminate chaos as Heaven maneuvers its players around her, Dani realizes her would-be assassin may be the only man capable of helping her survive.
Dani works as a type of zookeeper for the traveling Freak's Fair. In other words, she shovels crap for a living. But it's an honest wage, lets her keep her head down and away from anyone who might figure out that she is basically a Null, even though she had two very rare and powerful parents. Parents who left her abandoned when she was only 8 years old with years worth of warnings to never, ever tell anyone who or what her parents are. So she spends years in special Freak group homes until she ages out and gets kicked out with no where to go and $500 to get there. Her greatest power? Seeing how someone dies when she touches them with her hands. This makes casual contact almost impossible. So taking care of the animals also lets her have touch contact with a living creature without the worry of death scenes playing in her head.
When Dani saves a human child, Khavien, the Fair Boss finds out that she has been hiding her talent for Fortelling Death. He forces her to make a deal to become a fortune teller or leave the Fair. When she reluctantly consents, he sticks, Cain a newcomer to the Fair, as her bodyguard. Cain is a predatory incubus and has come to the fair to find "the Key". Dani thinks he's looking for an object made up to help teach morality lessons to Freak children. Cain insists the Key is real and nearby. The two of them mix like oil and water, and spend a lot of time sniping at each other.
As with a first book in any series, there has to be some world building. With an Urban Fantasy, there is typically much more world building to be done to acclimate the reader to this new universe. And there is plenty of detail to this world, even if we don't understand it all yet. There were times that I was confused about what was happening, but so was Dani. Most of what we discovered as the book went along was completely new to her, so we were along for the ride as she tried to piece things together.
This story is told from Dani's perspective. We know what she knows. So when the other characters don't tell her anything and keep her in the dark about their motives and actions, we are in the same exact spot she is - right next to the mushrooms. And Cain spends an awful lot of the first half - strike that - most of the book, treating her like a mushroom.
There were plenty of action scenes to contrast with the emotional scenes and while the overall story is no where near complete, there was no dreaded cliffhanger at the end. I was very surprised at how quickly I was sucked into the world and became so invested in Dani's struggles. If book two continues in this mien, I can see this series becoming a regular favorite. I gave this book 4 stars for a great start to a new Urban Fantasy series.
Thanks to the author and TKA Distribution for the opportunity to read and review this book.