Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review – “Dark Time: Mortal Path” by Dakota Banks

From the Bookcover:
Three hundred years ago, she sold her soul to a demon. Now she wants it back.

For centuries, the woman calling herself Maliha Crayne has lived a second life—as an assassin for the malevolent creature who owns her soul. A haunted killer with the blood of countless victims on her hands, she has finally discovered a way to nullify the demonic pact that chains her: If she saves a life for every one she has taken, she will be free.

But if she fails, her punishments will be unspeakable, unendurable . . . and neverending.
Dark Time is the first book in a new dark urban fantasy thriller series called the Mortal Path. Dark Time introduces us to Maliha Crayne, a terrific new urban fantasy heroine that is multi-layered, passionate, and nuanced. Maliha’s story begins in 1692 as the mortal Susannah, married, pregnant and a healer in her small community until she is unjustly accused of witchcraft leading to a speedy trial and sentence of death. All of her hopes and dreams, her faith in family and friends collapses around her -
With no past or future that she cared to think about, the narrow present of heartbeat to heartbeat was all that was left for Susannah.
As she is consumed by the flames, she is offered and makes a pact with an ancient Sumerian demon, to become his assassin in return for her chance at revenge. Made immortal with enhanced strength and senses she shuts down her compassion and becomes one of his agents in the human world for the next 250 years. Cracks and fissures begin to appear in the wall she has built around her humanity and after one job too many she realizes she needs to end the cycle of evil she has embraced.

Even the demon is bound by a greater set of rules, and Maliha’s contract with the demon allows her an out – she becomes mortal again, but must balance the accumulated debt of lives taken with new lives saved; measured literally by a tattooed scale which appears on her body and changes with her progress.

The world building and back story of the demons is fresh and original with a nice scifi twist mixed with the metaphysical. In addition to seeking her own redemption, Maliha also commits herself to the defeat and destruction of the demon influence on mankind. This theme is part of the long-term story arc but is not the primary focus of Dark Time. The story quickly progresses to contemporary times and introduces us to Maliha in her current identity as a writer. Meeting a blind date set by her girlfriend (and who later becomes the love interest) shows some of the catchy dialogue and reflects Maliha’s persona -
He took out one of his business cards and wrote his address on the back. "Shall I pick you up?"
"Do I look like I've fallen?”
He laughed and smiled. "I only mention it because neighborhood isn't what you're used to, being a famous novelist."
"So I'll beat off the muggers with my books. I’ll be fine."
Maliha uses her wealthy celebrity writer identity as a cover for her investigative activities. In some ways there are parallels with the Bruce Wayne/Batman tradition. When she is on a covert mission she adopts a look she dubs the “Black Ghost”. We also get introduced to several of her companions and aids which she has been accumulating as she builds herself a new family, part of her bid to re-establish and re-connect with her humanity. Secondary characters are well developed and fleshed out through engaging flashbacks.

Maliha retains some of her original demon derived abilities, including the ability to sense a person’s emotional aura. Investigating a new target her observation demonstrates her senses and reflects on her positive sense of humour -
Maybe he's not so horrible. He could just be having a bad aura day.
Dark Time is a thriller that synthesizes and delivers action akin to Mission Impossible and James Bond. Unlike many of the characters in those stories, Maliha is believable because she has the experiences, knowledge, languages and training from a lifetime of 300 plus years to back up her actions. It is gratifying to see a character whose inner contemplations, relationships and dialogue truly reflect what it would be like to have lived that long.

At one point Maliha chooses to rescue a young woman at the risk to her current mission and I feel her choice epitomizes the core values and strengths of the character and the novel.
It was right to go after her. And if I die, I've failed and that's my problem. The world will go on as it is, without me. If I'm going to do this and be true to my self, I have to accept the possibility of failure, and go out there and take risks to save people anyway. I have to live—and love—and risk it all every day.
There are so many more layers to this book than what I have described and a lot is packed into the 300 pages. Dark Time is a definite page-turner and I recommend it especially if you like thrillers and well drawn characters. The main events of the novel tie up quite nicely, but the ending does have a character cliff-hanger that had me growling for an answer – now. Good stuff. The sequel Sacrifice comes out next year.

Dakota Banks will be my guest next Wednesday, August 5, where she will discuss how the idea and writing of Dark Time came about. There is also an EXCLUSIVE sneak preview of an excerpt from the sequel SACRIFICE. We will also have some great swag for every commentator (yes you read that right) as well as a giveaway for TWO signed copies of Dark Time. Make sure you drop back and visit with Dakota.

Official Dakota Banks Website

HarperCollins Publishers/EOS
Published: July 28, 2009
ISBN #: 9780061687303
Format: Paperback
Pages: 306

Mortal Path Series:

  1. Dark Time (2009)
  2. Sacrifice (2010)

Read an excerpt of Chapter 1.

Writing as Shirley Kennett (Thrillers):

  • Gray Matter (1996)
  • Fire Cracker (1997)
  • Chameleon (1998)
  • Act of Betrayal (2000) (writing as Morgan Avery)
  • Burning Rose (2002)
  • Time of Death (2005)

Book trailer:


  1. Doug,

    Wonderful review. :) I have this one on my wish list.


  2. Yep, this is a book I'm looking forward to reading - ever since I found out about it. I love the cover!

  3. Hey Michelle Dark Time was really different, but good!

    Donna Maliha is one of the best new UF characters to come out this year.

  4. Sacrifice? I thought it was Self Destruct. Hmm, I might have to do some research...

  5. Great review. I also read this one and enjoyed it, though not as much as you as I did have some issues. It was fun though and I still love the beginning of Dark Time.

    ~ Popin

  6. Wow! I am very eager to get my hands on this book and begin reading the first and all of its sequels. Thanks for sharing all of this information.

    Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

  7. Great review.I just started reading this today.

  8. PopinFresh I had a few reservations but I liked Maliha and was more than willing to overlook the few first novel in a series problems. I think the next book will be much stronger.

    Hope you enjoy it elaing8!

  9. This book sounds really interesting.

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