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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sacrifice, Mortal Path, Book Two by Dakota Banks

Publisher:  Eos Books / Harper Collins
Pages:  304


From the Cover:

A demon's enslaved executioner—a ravager of lives and souls—Maliha Crayne has been reborn, willing to sacrifice her immortality for a chance at freedom . . . and salvation. Now she has an opportunity to prevent the death of thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—to make up for the countless lives she has obliterated over the centuries. 

To do so, she must locate and destroy an evil cabal of madmen in possession of a weapon of unspeakable power—and survive the immortal assassins who are now after her blood. But it means reverting to the old ways and surrendering once more to the darkness. And if Maliha dies before the mission is accomplished, the hell she once knew will seem like a picnic compared to the eternal torments awaiting her. 

When we last visited with Maliha Crayne, she was wondering how Jake, her new boyfriend, had entered her sanctum, her safe zone known to few and impenetrable by all, until now. How could Jake have navigated her safety procedures which were difficult even for an Ageless... there could only be one explanation, and Maliha doesn't like it.

Maliha and crew are setting out upon a new mission, and it all starts with a distress call from Maliha's good friend, Hound's wife, Glass. She was on a medical mission in Darfur and went missing. Maliha fears the worst, Sudanese bad guys, the Janjaweed, supplied by the government were known to beat, mutilate, and rape the women they captured, before killing them that is. Hound can only see finding Glass, and not what may be the consequences of her capture. So, into the battle zone they go, and manage to free Glass who has sustained multiple injuries, and just when they think maybe they're all going to make it out, the scales on Maliha chest and stomach balance, causing her to falter. She beaten, kicked, stoned, until a savior appears in silver armor.

Maliha wakes up in the hospital, knowing only an Ageless could have possibly saved her, but why? As they recuperate in a private hospital in the Switzerland, Maliha begins to ponder the attack. When she asks Amaro and Yanmeng, the other members of her extended family to check it out, the town has been burned to a crisp, nothing is left. Curious, Maliha gets the whole story from Glass about people so sick they were dissolving. Again, Maliha sets Amaro on the trail, and he discovers an organization experimenting with nanites, microscopic technology able to work at the molecular level. Suddenly, Maliha's gut is telling her there's more going on, and it could have deadly consequences, for thousands, if not millions of people.

During all of this, Maliha's personal life in knocking on her door, and it's nothing she's happy about. Jake, who could be the love of her life, hasn't been telling her the truth, or at least not the whole truth. The knight in silver armor, Lucius, who saved the day in Darfur; he kidnaps Maliha, wanting to know how she defied her demon. She begs him to join her, but will it be his ultimate undoing?  As an Ageless, he's been working for his demon hundreds of years, can he ever balance his scales?

Sacrifice by Dakota Banks is thrilling urban fantasy at it's best.  Maliha denied her demon when she was asked to do the impossible, kill an innocent. The God, Anu, allowed the defiance, but on the condition of balancing the scales of deaths. For each life she took as a demon's assassin, she must save a life, and with each life she saves, she ages, which in turn reduces her abilities to save additional lives. As an Ageless, she healed in the blink of an eye, moved faster than the eye could see, and trained in the deadly arts.  She's still as deadly, but slower and it takes time to heal, not as much as a mortal, but much longer than an Ageless. And the foe she has to match wits with this time is deadly, probably one of the most deadly creatures to have ever walked the Earth, without scruples or conscious. He wants her death, Jake wants her body and soul, and Lucius wants to gain her love, even at the cost of his immortality. When Maliha realizes what she's up against, she has to grab her extended family, and throw them into hiding, only Hound, Amora, and Yanmeng know her secrets, and now not even they can help her. Without her safety net around her, she feels herself slipping back into the Black Ghost persona, the one she used as a demon servant. Will it be Maliha ultimate undoing?

Sacrifice is an excellent example of a thrilling urban fantasy. There's mondo bad guys, the Sudanese creeps, the evil council members, and demons assassins. Maliha is thrust into a world where she's not sure who she can trust, and it makes her question her friends, the new life she's been leading, the purpose of her life. It even makes her question whether or not she was better off as a demon assassin. Then she meets Lucius, and he wants to defy his demon, how can she help him if she can't help herself? And then there's Jake. Sacrifice is the perfect title for this story, can Maliha ask Jake to sacrifice himself, will Lucius sacrifice himself by defying his demon, will her friends and family sacrifice themselves all to help Maliha in a life she's not even sure about? This book was an incredibly quick read, I thought I start it one evening, just to get a feel for the story, and 74 pages later, I realized I'd have to keep reading. There's action, adventure, excitement, horror, and a fantasy island in the middle of the Mediterranean, and it's all wrapped up as an urban fantasy. I highly recommend this book for all lovers of urban fantasy, even thrillers, there's a great mystery that Maliha has to solve if she's going to save the day and her life. It's an excellent follow up to Dark Time, Mortal Path, Book One.

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