Death’s Rival, the spectacular fifth installment in the superb Jane Yellowrock series, delivers on every level. Jane Yellowrock, a vampire- hunter-for-hire who more recently has been in the employ of Leo Pellisier, Vampire Master of New Orleans, finds herself on a plane to investigate a truly odd phenomenon: vampires are getting sick with a disease that resembles a sort of plague. Since vampires don’t get sick, the situation has the highest priority. It seems that an unknown older vamp has been infecting masters of various cities unless they comply with his orders to give over their territories and people to him.
When Jane arrives in Sedona, Arizona, to meet with Rosanne, the master there, an old friend of Leo’s, she gets attacked at the small airport by two human blood-slaves, and while defending herself ends up killing one of them and disabling the other. After reporting in to Leo’s second in command, Bruiser, and once again stressing the distinct possibility of a leak in the organization, Jane continues on to meet with Rosanne. Jane feels a bit of a shock coming face-to-face with the disease affecting the vampires, but despite a brief tussle with Rosanne’s assistant she manages to collect some of the sick vampire’s blood for analysis. The scene Jane discovers on her next stop in Seattle proves even more disturbing, and it becomes apparent that stopping the vampire behind the attacks has truly become a race against the clock.
Each chapter in this engrossing and addictive series reveals another facet of Jane’s character as the layers of her past get peeled back. Jane seeks to understand the core of her being as a skinwalker, but since she seems to be the only one left, she must discover what she can by delving into her consciousness in the Cherokee sweat lodge. The relationship between Jane and Beast — two souls in a shared body, whichever form that happens to be at the time — remains a fascinating and unique concept that Hunter continues to develop with such extraordinary skill that the reader never even questions whether or not it could be possible. Jane’s evolving, and in some cases battered, relationships with those she cares about prove as challenging as the life and death situations she faces at every turn, adding dimension and poignancy to her story.
Death’s Rival demonstrates once again Hunter’s grasp of what makes urban fantasy special as a genre — the effective and tactile blending of elements, which she serves up in a smoothly-flowing narrative style that never misses a beat, compelling the reader to keep turning pages while fully immersed in the world of the novel. Luckily fans of the series will not have long to wait for book six, Blood Trade, due in April 2013, and this reviewer will be first in line.
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Roc (October 2, 2012)