Mystery and Murder in The DARK HEART OF MAGIC–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a paranormal YA adventure/romance from Jennifer Estep. The DARK HEART OF MAGIC is a book I really enjoyed. It’s got a cool fantasy story with neat world-building, and a realistic revenge plot.

Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade, #2)About the book:
Something Wicked This Way Comes…
As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight—or the danger.

Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious “accidents,” it looks like someone will do anything to win—no matter who they hurt.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone’s going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing’s for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else…

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, but I read it out of order and had no problems with the storyline.

This book is set in the fantastical realm of Cloudburst Falls, West Virginia in a contemporary time period with the addition of magic, mobs and mayhem. Okay, so really it’s only magic that’s a game changer. In this bookscape, there are people who possess magical Talents, like super speed, strengths, divination etc. There are also magical creatures–which are highly concentrated in the mountainous area of Clouburst Falls, or so says the tourism board. Still, lochnesses, tree trolls and copper crushers are part of the fauna, and one must know how to deal with these creatures in order to get on.

Lila Merriweather is not who she claims to be, and there are few who know the secret of her identity. She was born Lila Sterling, child of Serena Sterling, a powerful woman who fled Cloudburst Falls after Lila’s father was murdered by his benefactor, Victor Draconi–head of the Draconi Family and the same dude who later murdered Serena, stealing her magical Talents.

Lila wants to avenge her parents, but she’s only 17 and still honing her magic, plus she knows it would be a suicide mission to take out the head of the most powerful Family in Cloudburst Falls. Instead, she’s the personal bodyguard of Devon Sinclair–son of Claudia Sinclair and second-in-command of the Sinclair Family. Lila recently saved Devon from certain death and is just getting used to her new position in the Family, as she’s been living on her own and stealing for a living since her mother’s murder four years ago. Also, she’s totally gaga for Devon, and he for her, but she holds off on making anything physical because she has lost too many people close to her to let Devon get in close.

This book is the set-up before the major clash between the Sinclair and Draconi families. We learn, intimately, just how underhanded the Draconis can be–and how ruthless some of these people in this world are.

The set-up is a tournament, which is meant to showcase all the Talents of the Families to themselves and the tourists. It’s a major attraction and has been won by Deah Draconi for the past two years. Deah’s not the biggest or strongest, but her mimic magic is a distinct edge. Devon and Lila are part of the competition this year, as is Katia Volkov–an outsider who comes down from New York to compete. She lost to Deah the past two years and is angling to win it all.

I really liked the bit of mystery that was woven into the story. Lila and Devon notice that the magical monsters are moving around, coming out from their normal habitats into areas that are more highly populated. This seems to be a defensive move because they also find many carcasses strewn about the woods, with suspicious markings and clearly malicious stab wounds. I had the culprit and motive pinpointed early on, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t happy with the reveal. Also, it made for some good suspense.

Lila has a lot to learn about the Family life, but she embraces the affection and support given so freely by the Sinclairs. Her mother and Claudia had been best friends in their girlhood, and Claudia is happy to have Lila with her. Of course, there are lots of secrets about Lila’s mother, and who best to relate them than Serena’s sister–not that Lila knew she had an aunt. Or a cousin, one who is poised to become her enemy and her ally. That twist was really excellent, and also sets up the next book stunningly.

Lila is a dark horse to win the tournament, but she performs exceedingly well, and it’s hers to lose. I won’t reveal any of that, but the depth of empathy Lila exhibits in the course of competition made her truly likable as a character. I liked that the love story between Lila and Devon is a side issue, one that Lila continues to set to the side, because her duty lies elsewhere. She has the right mindset, and I was glad that she behaved like a woman with a brain, and also a heart. I’m looking forward the next book.

Interested? You can find DARK HEART OF MAGIC on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble–and probably your local library, too.  I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adult urban fantasy series for Pocket. Books in the series are SPIDER’S BITE, WEB OF LIES, VENOM, TANGLED THREADS, SPIDER’S REVENGE, BY A THREAD, and WIDOW’S WEB. THREAD OF DEATH, an e-novella, is also available.

HAINTS AND HOBWEBS: AN ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SHORT STORY can be found in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE.

DEADLY STING, the eighth book, is set to be released on March 26, 2013.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington.

Books in the series are TOUCH OF FROST, KISS OF FROST, and DARK FROST. CRIMSON FROST, the fourth book, is set to be released on Dec. 24, 2012.

FIRST FROST, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a download. HALLOWEEN FROST, an e-short story, is available in the ENTANGLED e-anthology.

Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series. Books in the superhero-themed series are KARMA GIRL, HOT MAMA, JINX, and NIGHTINGALE. A KARMA GIRL CHRISTMAS, an e-story, is also available.

Excerpts, free short stories, and more information on Jennifer’s books can be found on her website. Catch her also on Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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