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In a nutshell
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Sabrina Kane is of mixed blood: She is half vampire and half mage. Her mage father died before she was born and her vampire mother died in childbirth, so she has been raised by her grandmother Lavinia. Vampires and mages hate each other [makes a change from the usual vampire versus werewolves stuff], so everyone treats Sabrina as a second class citizen due to her heritage, punishing her for her parents sins.
Granny Kane isn't a sweet, white haired, old lady however, she is the Alpha Domina of the Dominae; Which is the vampires major religion, worshipping their creator Lilith [the followers are known as Lilims]. Lavina - embarrased by her granddaughter - has seen Sabrina trained as an assassin for the Dominae, which is a lowly job, suitable for an outcast which she is seen as.
Which brings us to...
The Domina learns that a fellow mixed blood [vampire and demon] named Clovis Trakiya is building a rival religious sect and is preaching about unity amongst the races. He is rumoured to be gaining interest - if not outright support - from the other supernatural races, including mages. The Dominae don't like the sound of this friendliness between vampires and mages, so Sabrina is ordered to dispatch Clover. Well no, not simply dispatch him. She wants Sabrina to go undercover, infiltrate the cult, uncover any spies, then dispatch Clover, but A: Sabrina knows how to kill people, not investigate and spy and B: Who are the real bad guys here?
Whilst trying to figure everything out she also has a mage stalker to deal with and the fact that the demon that he sent to 'test' her [no, she doesn't know why] is now stuck in this realm, drinking her beer and watching her TV...
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This book was so much fun. I'm delighted by the fact that the heroine is a assassin and drinks from humans, sometimes to the point of death [she hates drinking synthetic blood]... True she does go for drug dealers and would-be rapists ala Dexter, but it's still a ton better then most of the other "blood is yuck" and "kiss don't kill" otherworldly heroines many publishers are trying to sell to me. If I'm looking at a book about vampires, cults and assassins I know that I'm going to read about murder and gore, so let the characters be less then squeaky clean accordingly. Thanks.
Books featuring vampires are ten to a penny post-Twilight and every scenario has been done countless times so I ignored this book when Amazon kept recommending it to me, before coming across it in my local library and biting the bullet. Fortunately author Jaye Wells has come up with a formula that I've not come across before; The vampires in this author's world are descended from Lilith's affair with Cain, so in addition to Lilith's blood thirst, all vampires also have inherited Cain's red hair (God marked Cain with red hair after he murdered Abel) and inability to go out in sunlight. Oh yeah - if you want to stake a vampire make sure you use applewood, or if you can somehow get a vampire to ingest the forbidden fruit it will strip away their immortality and make them kill-able.
I'm not religious, but the biblical origins of the vampire paired with the inner workings and politics of modern cults was fascinating and the aspects of the uneasy supernatural races also helped lend an air of realism. People not liking others who are different to them? differing cultures? killing people over religious ideals? It is a story that is startlingly relevant and is slightly unsettling. It will stay stuck in your head long after you've read it.
Was there anything that I didn't like? I wouldn't depend on my description of the Dominae as being a major religion for vampires as fact in a [unlikely] life or death situation; Whilst I'm fairly sure I've deciphered it correctly, it's never made crystal clear [maybe it was and I'm just a tad slow to catch on].
** Book two in the Sabrina Kane series is titled The Mage In Black **
[Review coming soon]