Darklands, the gripping fourth book in the Deadtown series, picks up just a few weeks after the events of book three. Vicky Vaughn, against her better judgment and inclination, finds herself at the zombie school in Deadtown, about to give a presentation for career night to a class (thanks to Tina, her former apprentice) about her job as an exterminator of personal demons. Unfortunately for Vicky and her audience, the class gets treated to an actual demonstration when a harpy suddenly attacks. Unarmed, due to the school policy banning weapons, Vicky’s disadvantage turns when she discovers that Tina does not always follow school rules, and she manages to kill the attacking demon. Since the harpy clearly had been sent after her, Vicky puzzles over why and by whom.
After she arrives home, Vicky picks up the bound-in-human-skin Book of Utter Darkness as instructed by Mab, and gets a vision of her former demi-demon cousin Pryce, who mysteriously disappeared after their last run-in. Mulling over her experience with the book, as well as the newest shapeshifter symptom exhibited by her niece, Maria, and its resultant drama, Vicky heads over to her one remaining client who has not cancelled on her recently. Once inside the woman’s dreamscape, where she must go to exterminate demons that cause nightmares, Vicky sees Pryce, who appears to be collecting demons, and barely survives an attack from the man. After finishing the job, Vicky, with the assistance of her Aunt Mab, begins piecing together the clues of what Pryce may be planning – something so horrific that she must put aside her concerns over the female werewolf who seems to have designs on Kane, as well as all other personal matters.
With each installment, the reader gets treated to a wild ride of exploration as Holzner depicts another alternate plane within her intricate universe. As each of its predecessors in the Deadtown series does, the terrific Darklands strikes an ideal balance between action, introspection, world-building, and character development. Vicky’s family dynamics, despite the paranormal aspects, feel realistic and genuine, and along with new developments in relationships keep the reader invested in how things play out. In each outing, layers of the mythology underpinning the story get revealed, adding richness to the tale. As always, the author’s deft use of humor hits just the right notes, comfortably sharing space with the emotional moments. All urban fantasy lovers should be reading this superb series, and this reviewer will be first in line for book five.
- Reading level: Ages 18 and up
- Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ace (July 31, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1937007707
- ISBN-13: 978-1937007706