I've just finished reading Vicki Pettersson's The Taste of Night. This is the second in the Zodiac series (the first is The Scent of Shadows) and set in Las Vegas. The series revolves around balance, the bad guys - Shadows - and the good guys - Lights. All represent the signs of Zodiac.
The Shadow Zodiac is typically cruel to mortals as they try to defeat the Light. The good guys follow the rules, protect the innocents while trying to maintain the balance. Enter the chief bad guy whose powers are... scary.
Our protagonist, Joanna Archer, is a woman of both Shadow and Light. For that reason, the Light don't always trust her and the Shadows just want her on their side. Why? Because she is the daughter of the chief Shadow, a creature made flesh from thought, and the most powerful of all.
And so we have the clash between super villains and super heroes, though Joanna wants to be neither. Oh, no. She wants to settle down with Ben Traina, love of her life. But since her 'accidental' death she has to keep those she loves out of the line of fire or her Shadow side might just consume her.
I can't remember the last time a read a book where the main character was so wonderfully selfish for what appears the right reasons. Joanna Archer came to the Zodiacs late, and when both sides realise who she is, the head Light agent begins to only teach Joanna what is absolutely necessary for a mission for fear she will use the information for the Shadows. A fact emphasised by the Shadows and used by them to manipulate her.
She's between the rock and the hard place and has to do things her own way because of the lack of trust. This has catastrophic results and while The Taste of Night neatly wraps up plot threads, there are more portents of disaster given for the next book. It seems everything Joanna does leads to more death and destruction, even though she thought, at the time, she was doing the right thing; even doing nothing has consequences.
I kept wanting to skip pages to see what happens; wanted to, but didn't. Ms Pettersson writes with passion and cleverness, she lures the reader in and onwards with the promise of maybe a not-so-happily-ever-after ending, with characters who display both realistic and unrealistic traits.
I recommend these books to anyone who wants to read paranormal, but not vampires, werewolves or other preternatural creatures. These superheroes are flawed, tortured and sometimes desperate; the supervillains are... evil, cruel and enjoy being that way.
I'm hangin' for the next instalment, The Touch of Twilight at the end of May, because this series is already re-readable and has the makings of a classic fantasy series.