by A.J. Locke
Series: Warrior of the Divine Sword #1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: November 15, 2021
Source: Grey's Promotions
I received an advance review copy of this book from Grey's Promotions. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Falling asleep for almost 300 years was never part of Pennrae’s plan.
Of course, when you’re a mercenary with magical abilities and defy a spellbinding prophecy…bad stuff happens.
Now, magic is long gone from the world. So Penn works as a karate instructor, trying very hard to dodge her hot, flirty, and super annoying colleague, Callan. All is well until a Jigori – a nightmarish magic-eating monster – shows up at a New York City street fair, forcing Penn to use her Shaper magic, which allows her to transform wood and metal into deadly weapons.
Now, the Jigori’s master has her scent, and their eye on stealing her 300 years of life. If they succeed, Penn succumbs to centuries of sleep again, and magic will be unleashed on a completely unprepared world.
And to add to her ridiculously complicated life, something isn’t quite right with Callan. Which she could figure out if it weren’t for that evil, apocalyptic plot she’s trying to stop. But Penn may not have a choice – Callan could be the secret weapon she needs to save the world…
I’m always interested in new urban fantasy, so this one, set in an alternate reality New York City and starring a majority Black cast, caught my eye. This is a solidly urban fantasy with a romantic subplot, with an intriguing magic system, lots of found family vibes, and a ton of action.
It’s been three hundred years since magic left the world, and only eight years since Pennrae woke up. A magic-era bounty hunter, going against a prophecy led to her sleeping for nearly three hundred years and waking up to a much different world. But there are signs that magic is re-entering the world in disastrous ways, and it may all link back to a dark magic user that has Penn firmly in his sights. With few allies and little time, can Penn survive long enough to save her friends and the world?
“You should be grateful I enjoy your company so much I’d lie to you.”
“That is a very unstable compliment[.]”
Pennrae’s a fun character. She’s a kickass warrior, someone more used to hunting down bounties than providing security for stodgy museum openings, but she’s adjusting. She’s spent the past eight years getting used to the modern world, and while she appreciates some of the new technological marvels (not the subway, though!) she still misses her old life. She’s cautious by nature, so while she’s made two friends, Gideon and Toji, she hasn’t spoken about her history with them. They’re as close as family, almost, but Penn can’t bring herself to be that vulnerable with them, especially if they don’t believe her.
Her closest relationship is with her familiar, Ashe, a magic era creature who has a limited shapeshifting ability to appear to be a normal dog instead of a large, rideable creature with multiple tales. Penn’s a Shaper who can manipulate metals and wood, something she puts to use making little sculptures to sell at Gideon’s store, but for the most part, she ignores her magic-era training and works as a teacher at a local dojo. It’s there she meets Callan, a fellow instructor, and initially she thinks he’s a jerk who can’t help showing off. But appearances can be deceiving, and it’s clear her initial impression is off the mark. The romance subplot between them is fun and full of lots of banter, though it did feel overshadowed by the rest of the book.
The magic system was complex and interesting. There’s not a lot of info-dumping so it takes a while to get a good explanation of how it works. Basically, there’s five classes of Talent magic: Tamers who raise and manage animals or plants; Temporals, time manipulators; Conjurers, who create and control magical constructs; Shapers, who manipulate physical objects; and Diviners, who use holy, celestial magic. Each had a corresponding nexus point that opened under a certain celestial alignment, and you had to be born while that point was open in order to have that magic. Every three hundred years or so, all of the nexus points open at once in a phenomenon called the Auraxa Reiv. The last one, and its surplus of magic, is what led to Penn sleeping for so long as opposed to just a few days. A Necromajin, a dark magic user, had used the opening to create a giant construct that basically had started to destroy the world, so the Diviners trapped it and then sealed all the nexuses, removing magic from the world. With the next Auraxa Reiv due soon, no one, least of all Penn, knows how the world will be affected.
It’s hard to go into too much more without spoiling something. There’s a lot of twists and red herrings, and much like Penn, a lot of things aren’t what they initially seem. There’s a ton of action, and it almost felt sometimes like Penn couldn’t take a breath before something new happened. I would’ve liked more time with Penn and Callan developing their relationship and maybe a few less twists, but in general I felt the pacing worked.
“I’m not afraid of your darkness if you aren’t afraid of mine.”
Overall, I’d give this three and a half stars. It’s definitely got some of that “first book in a series” things going on, so I’ll be very interested to see what happens in the next book!