Jayné (Zha-nay) Heller is a drop-out college girl practically friendless, jobless and alienated from her upright, conservative family. Her father threw her out when she decided to study at a secular uni, not the one he, a devout Christian fundamentalist, chose for her. When she is informed that her uncle Eric, the only family member she’d been on speaking terms with, was murdered she has nothing to lose. She goes to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers. All of a sudden she becomes a rich heiress. Along with properties across the world and a virtually inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of bad, inked wizards known as the Invisible College. It seems Eric was not only a successful businessman but also a kind of demon fighter, specializing in supernatural attacks and possessions.
Jayné has to go on a supernatural crash curse and learn all about it as quickly as it is possible because her safety and life depends on her knowledge and skills. Spirits from another plane are brought into this world and take host bodies. They’re called “riders” and they can be vampires, werewolves, demons of various sub-species. To ordinary people they are undetectable; you have to learn how to use your spirit energy, your “qi”, to see their world clearly.
Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions — Aubrey, Eric’s devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda, and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities — Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she’ll have to learn the new rules fast — or break them completely….
It is a series of five books penned by Daniel Abraham under the pseudonym of M.L.N. Hanover. Originally it was supposed to be twice as long and, unfortunately, it can be felt. A word of warning: don’t expect any kind of closure in the last book, don’t be surprised that it reads as if its heroine was only in the middle of her spiritual journey leading to the full knowledge about her wealth, powers and possible future. Her emotional upheaval never ends and her romantic life remains neither here nor there, completely unresolved. Still enough of complaining, after all I did make it through all the five books and enjoyed my journey so let’s focus on things that actually worked.
The narration (first person limited) was done very skillfully with some fine moments of humour breaking the overwhelming doom and gloom. The main character, a kick-ass girl fighting demons which murdered her beloved uncle, Eric, felt real and three-dimensioned, from her Pink Martini t-shirts to her need to visit a bathroom from time to time; still when I come to think about it I liked the world build the most. First of all the author was clever enough to make most of issues grey, not black or white. The demons or ‘riders’ were not all necessarily evil, their victims also were not completely blameless and/or unhappy. The fact that Jayné herself had to deal with her double nature (not telling anything more, it’s already a bit spoilerish) was even more intriguing and in the last part there came a major twist which was simply ingenious and delightful way out of many questions asked previously. It was also a joy to observe a very logic, coherent way the ideas were being unfurled. There was no haphazard additions to the fictional world, no deus-ex-machina solutions, no accidental beings or explanations introduced just because the author was clearly facing the wall about an issue or two. Everything was clearly thought-out well and planned from the beginning.
There were a few inconsistencies or implausabilities that made me stop and think but they weren’t huge. I loved the fact that these characters actually ate and felt hungry. I know, it’s a small thing, but I’ve read so many urban fantasy or paranormal romance books where the characters just run on adrenaline and/or coffee for several days straight without any consequences. It always make me feel tired.
However, maybe because the author was stopped in the middle of the work, I had the feeling that most of areas could have been developed even better. That remark especially concerns the secondary characters and Jayné’s love life or lack thereof. From my point of view there was simply no chemistry between her and two of her love interests. I hoped it might change when Aubrey was finally out of the picture (I almost whooped when it happened, the guy was a serious drag) and Ex’s way seemed as straight as ruler (go Ex, go!). No such luck. I would understand it if Jayné’s character was constructed a bit differently – as an independent, ‘tough’ woman who needs no man around – but it was clearly not the case. Then the reluctance of Ex to make the right first move and the obstinacy of Jayné to acknowledge him not as just a ‘brother’ and a ‘friend’ but also as a potential suitor or a lover made me annoyed after some time. It was as if the author was afraid of his own ideas or couldn’t clarify them better. Perhaps it would make perfect sense if there were more books coming; as it is I admit my feelings were mixed. Jayné was clearly left in the middle of things and I do regret we might never see the continuation of her story and her sidekicks will never get more depth.
Despite its shortcomings one of better urban fantasy series which, unfortunately, was cut short. Still I recommend it, especially the last book (Graveyard Child). Mind you every part can be read as a stand-alone which is also an asset.