Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dark and Twisty in a Fabulous Way!

Dark Goddess (A Devil's Kiss Novel)
Ever since reading Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda last winter, I have been hoping there was a second book. Devil's Kiss was a dark, twisted story about a young woman who wants to live a normal life, but whose father is the leader of the Knights Templar. He raises her and trains her as a Templar, which often means the greatest sacrifices in order to protect the people of the world from ghuls: werewolves, fallen angels, vampires, you name it. Dark Goddess picks the story up where Devil's Kiss left off- Billi SanGreal's life as the only female Templar.

After losing her best friend Kay, both to the world of the ghuls and then to the blade of her own sword, Billi has hardened. She understands the nature of her duty and life, and she plans on cutting off her emotions in order to serve the greater good. Unfortunately, her plan doesn't last long after they save a young girl named Vasilisa from the same werewolves who tore her family apart. They suspect Vasilisa is a Spring Child, an oracle, but they don't realize just how powerful she is at first. In fact, until she stops Vesuvius erupts. Vasilisa is somehow connected to the eruption and is running a fever that mirrors the volcano. When Billi puts her in the snow to cool her off, the eruption ends, but not before Naples is completely destroyed. It then becomes very clear to the Templars that Vasilisa is a very special Spring Child- she is an Avatar. Avatars are extremely powerful oracles who can actually affect the earth.

While the Templar is prepared to raise and train Vasilisa as one of their own, a very specific sect of werewolves called the Polenitsy, has a very different idea. The Polenisty is a group of female werewolves who live and serve the great God Baba Yaga (who has gone by other names, such as Gaia, but is essentially Mother Russia). Baba Yaga is an ancient witch who survives by consuming (literally) Spring Children. A Spring Child as powerful as Vasilisa will give her enough power to bring about fimbulwinter- an apocalyptic winter that will essentially rid the earth of the human plague. As a goddess/witch of the earth, Baba Yaga can no longer stand the humans and what they have done to her earth, and she will do anything to get rid of them.

When the Polenitsy kidnap Vasilisa from Billi's care, the Templar's have three days before the full moon to get her back. If they don't, Vasilisa will be eaten by Baba Yaga and human life will effectively end. The Templar's split up in order to cover more turf. Billi and a few others seek out the Bogatyrs, an ancient Russian group who rid the world of ghuls the same way the Templars do- or at least they used to. Descended from the Romanovs, the group is ruthless, but their new interim leader since the "Tsar" was killed by a Polenitsy is more ruthless than even the Bogatyrs are famous for. Tsarevich Ivan is the prince, but cannot take over the Bogatyrs until his 18th birthday. Now they must work together with the Templars to save Vasilisa. Unfortunately, Billi is quickly faced with the same situation she endured with Kay- Vasilisa may have to be killed in order to prevent Fimbulwinter and save the world. Can Billi sacrifice the young child in order the protect the many? Will she be able to stop Baba Yaga and the werewolves?

This is a fantastic follow up to the first dark installment. Chadda is a brilliant author who isn't afraid to broach truly dark and disturbing topics in the YA genre. While the stories are clean and appropriate for a younger demographic, they don't hold back when asking the really tough questions. Chadda's main character Billi is fantastic. Still damaged from the loss of her best friend Kay, she is struggling to hold herself together. By throwing herself into her Templar work, she thinks she can escape her grief and protect herself from more loss, but she couldn't be more wrong. Instead, she is essentially slapped in the face with it time and time again.

This book is probably better for an older student- mature middle school through high school- because there is some dark subject matter. The language is average, but the names- especially the Russian names- are tough. This is a solid follow-up to a wonderful break-out novel. Chadda has outdone himself with Dark Goddess, and I hope he will continue Billi SanGreal's story with the Templars!

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