Dark Descendant (Descendant #1) by Jenna Black
The old gods have a new weapon. Don’t mess with her.
Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . . Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali, who thinks she’s a spy. But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. . . .
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Jenna Black has always been hit or miss for me. I didn’t really enjoy Watchers in the Night, the first book in her paranormal series, but I really liked the first couple books in the Morgan Kingsley series. Thus, it was some hesitation that I picked up Dark Descendant. I’d planned to wait for it to come out at the public library but my local branch isn’t planning on purchasing it, so I figured I’d commit my hard-earned dollars to the book since the premise sounded like a lot of fun.
On some levels, I found Dark Descendant satisfying. The world building is great and you get a real sense of what the lives of the descendants must be like. The idea of choosing sides in a longstanding battle is nothing new; this time, Nikki must choose between Anderson’s people, who meet her first, and the Olympians, who are eventually established as not nice. I say eventually because there’s initially a lot of confusion about which side Nikki should be on, at least in her mind, particularly since the descendants in Anderson’s group aren’t all that kind either. Brett, for example, is descended from Eros and he uses his sexual appeal in all sorts of nefarious ways, and then there’s Jamaal, who spends most of the novel trying to terrorize Nikki with his death god powers, convinced she’s up to no good.
This whole two teams idea reminded me a lot of Vicki Pettersson‘s Signs of the Zodiac series. So did the fact that descendants can only be killed by other descendants, who then acquire the dead one’s immortality, which is awfully similar to what happens in the mythology of the Signs of the Zodiac series, since characters can kill someone in the other troop and then be undetectable by either side for a short period of time. I wish I could remember the name of it but my books are upstairs and the dog has pinned my legs to the sofa so I can’t double check it presently. Getting back to Dark Descendant, though, I actually had a lot of questions about this whole kill-then-inherit-immortality thing since, by definition, immortality means you can’t be killed. But if I start writing it all down, it’ll likely spiral into a mishmash of musing that no one would want to read so I’ll save it for now. Perhaps I missed something while I was reading?
Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was the idea of that the gods of various pantheons were here but then left, abandoning their children to this strange kill-to-live world that exists without regular humans being aware of what’s going on. Nikki’s adjustment from being a regular person to realizing that she’s one of these descendants was well written and all of the information needed to understand her situation was delivered in an organic way, which I appreciate as someone who hates large chunks of exposition thrown into the middle of a scene willy-nilly.
On the down side, a lot of Anderson’s merry gang are one-dimensional and consequently uninteresting. Over the course of the novel, we do see that there is more to Anderson and Brett but I found the others to be background noise. Even Jamaal, who has a back story that begs for the reader to sympathize, seemed like a cliche more than anything else. However, I found Nikki engaging enough, which made the pages turn. My favourite character has to be Nikki’s sister, though. She’s tougher than she looks, she doesn’t take too much hassle, and she was the most vivid character for me.
I think that this series is going to have to be library only from now on, since I don’t see myself reading it again any time soon.
Book #6 in Dark Faerie Tales’ urban fantasy challenge for this year. It’s not looking good…