Demon hunter Maxine Kiss, inked with living tattoos, is on a mission to rescue the man she loves from a bloodthirsty army. To save him, Maxine has only one choice: to lose control—and release her own powers of darkness.
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I loved The Iron Hunt, and was eagerly looking forward to the sequel. (Has it really only been a year?) I’m happy to report that Darkness Calls is a worthy successor. This time around, Maxine and her boyfriend Grant are being hounded by a mysterious group of religious fanatics and by a horrifically creepy being who introduces himself as “Mr. Erl King,” a name that will probably be familiar to myth-geeks like me. Seriously, this is one icky villain. I’m feeling nauseous right now, just rememberin
Anyway, like The Iron Hunt, Darkness Calls features lots of action, some humor, quirky secondary characters, and plenty of nods to mythology and folklore. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Around the middle of the novel, I got briefly bogged down because I was a little confused about what was going on. Part of this was almost certainly my own fault. I didn’t reread The Iron Hunt before starting Darkness Calls, and I’d forgotten some of the terminology and some of the world-building, which meant I couldn’t always remember who belonged to what supernatural faction and who was trying to kill whom for what reason. Another aspect of the confusion was intentional. Maxine herself doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, especially not at first. The attempts on her and Grant’s lives keep her running and fighting 24/7. When she does have the chance to take a breath and have a deep conversation, the “wise old sage” characters in her life are often more cryptic than helpful.
This feeling of confusion passed quickly, though. I was captivated by the events leading up to Maxine’s showdown with the Erl King. The climactic scenes are harrowing and highly emotional. As an added bonus, there are a few more Labyrinth scenes and mystic-vision scenes. These are where Liu’s prose and the epic scope of her imagination really shine.
Another thing that was done really, really well: the romance between Maxine and Grant. In The Iron Hunt, Grant was almost background. Maxine was dealing largely with her own personal demons (real and metaphorical). Here, Grant is an integral part of the plot, and so is the relationship between him and Maxine. Many urban fantasy series focus on the formation of new relationships, or on the dramatic turmoil of relationships in crisis. What Liu depicts is rarer in the genre: a long-term relationship that works. Maxine and Grant face tons of problems, but you get the sense that their love and commitment are a match for whatever comes their way.
really liked it
Three and a half stars.
I found it even better than its predecessor, The Iron Hunt, however, it still suffers from some of the same narrative confusion. One of the less coherent parts of Lui’s narrative is when she has Kiss, the lead character, unintentionally jumping through time and space. I think most of the confusion stems from Liu intentionally creating mysteries, in this case related to unknown abilities of a silver ring/sword she picked up in The Iron Hunt, but as a reader, it gets confus
Darkness Calls is the second full length novel in Marjorie M. Liu’s Hunter Kiss series. This is the first book I have ever read from Marjorie and it certainly won’t be my last. I didn’t read the short story in the Wild Thing anthology that started it all or the first full length book, The Iron Hunt. Because of this, I had some reservations before reading Darkness Calls because I thought I would be confused. Marjorie is a wonderful storyteller and catches the reader up to speed. This is one dark
The character of Maxine Kiss is also very unique. Not only is she a hunter of zombies, demons and truly evil beings, but Maxine’s body is a wonderland of tattoos that come to life after dark. Her boys, as she calls them, are handed down to every female in her family from so many generations passed. These tattoos have their own names and personalities. Zee is her main bodyguard along with Raw and Aaz. There are also Dek and Mal who act like pelts on Maxine’s shoulders and in her hair. Dek and Mal enjoy humming Bon Jovi songs in Maxine’s ear. These five demons are playful but also very deadly. One minute they will play with teddy bear or baseballs, the next they will take down their victims and consume them whole. Maxine’s boys protect her at night and because of them, she is invincible. Not even bullets can harm her, until the daytime when they hibernate within her skin. Then she is vulnerable.
Maxine has never stayed put in one place, mainly because of her mother who was a nomadic zombie hunter. They moved from place to place until the things her mother hunted ended up killing her. Now Maxine has roots in Seattle, Washington. Maxine wants to build a home, but it will take a great deal of patience on her end because she always has the need to run. There is one man who won’t let her run. He is former priest and in charge of the Coop, the local homeless shelter. Grant Cooperon is the complete opposite of Maxine. Grant has a brain disorder where he can see sound. He is also a lightbringer who can see people’s auras. Maxine has found true love with Grant. She thinks of Grant as her man. Calling Grant, “her man” is a lovely endearment that Grant graciously accepts. Maxine also thinks Grant is beautiful even though Grants walks with a limp because of a bad leg and uses a cane. He wants to build a future with her and hopefully have children. But if Maxine has a daughter this bloodline curse will be passed down. And Maxine doesn’t think she has much longer to live. Maxine’s lifestyle is harsh and deadly. But as long as Maxine has her boys and Grant, she has hope that she can stay alive.
Things are never a dull moment and when a priest from Grant’s past finds him, he and Maxine will be taken on a very dangerous journey. This priest, Father Antony Cribari is a very sketchy character. He believes Grant is a monstrosity and was the reason Grant was kicked out of the priesthood and almost executed. Cribari wants Grant to come with him to China to save a dear friend of Grant’s who has been possessed by a demon and tortured and killed three nuns. Grant accepts even though Maxine has a bad feeling that he is being set up. Maxine can’t go with Grant to China because of her condition with her boys jumping out of her skin at night, so she remains behind.
While Grant is away Maxine is caught unaware and is taken captive. Father Cribari is the one responsible and wants her dead. Maxine is able to escape but needs to find Grant and save him. Cribari works for a man, or rather one of the most evil of all, a Mr. Erl King. Is Mr. King Satan? That’s up to the reader to decide. Whoever this King is, he wants Maxine out of the way because she is the key, one who can enter too and from the Labyrinth, another dimension or a wasteland that King wants to enter and take over.
In this wasteland is Maxine’s grandfather Jack Meddle who is an avatar. He is her spirit guide and the one who can help her defeat King because at one point Jack was able to imprison him. But King was able to break free and is angry and wants revenge.
Along with Grant, Jack and a few friends such as Father Lawrence and mind reader Killy who are sympathetic to their plight, Mary, a semi-deranged homeless woman full of hidden powers and Byron, a misunderstood teenage who looks up to Maxine, this eclectic group will take on Erl King even though they may not survive. And death will be the least of their problems if Erl King comes out on top.
This is one book not for the faint of heart. The action is very intense and there are many scenes that deal with the psychological horrors that reside in all of us. Marjorie is able to make this all come to life with the supernatural and takes certain religion aspects, fairy tales and other myths and combines them where the reader will have quite the rush as they watch Maxine fight for her life and those she cares for. Maxine is another kick ass heroine that is so well known in the majority of urban fantasy I have read. What I really loved was that Maxine has a great network of individuals to be her back up. Where else have you ever read about someone’s tattoos coming alive and taking over almost every scene they are in? It seems so freakish because these helpful demons of Maxine are with her every second of the day. Makes for interesting times in the bathroom, doesn’t it?
Maxine and Grant are very much a couple, but the intimacies they share are very subtle. These two are very set with one another. They are each other halves of their souls and I think if one died, the other would go into the afterlife to follow the other. All Grant has to do is look at Maxine and you will feel the deep love her has for her. And it also doesn’t hurt when he kisses her so desperately because he is not sure if Maxine will be alive the next time he sees her. Maxine is more the type to stand back and watch Grant. She is not as affectionate as he is, but you can still feel the love and chemistry she has for him, and he for her.
Darkness Calls is one riveting book and Marjorie Liu is one hell of a writer. The desperation Maxine feels as she deals with her past and unknown future is one that will keep you reading and anxious for the next terror Maxine will have to endure.