Monday, August 24, 2009

Review – “Drawn Into Darkness” by Annette McCleave

From the Bookcover:
For centuries Lachlan MacGregor has battled demon thieves for the souls of the dead, carrying out his pledge to deliver them into Heaven or Hell. But his greatest challenge as a Soul Gatherer is now among the living.

Struggling to connect with her troubled teenage daughter Emily, artist Rachel Lewis turns to her enigmatic yet strangely compelling neighbor Lachlan for advice. As Lachlan soon discovers, the young girl has fallen victim to a seductive demon—a specter from the past using the unsuspecting women to fulfill an ancient prophesy and settle a hellish score with Lachlan himself.

In the race to save Emily and avert a disastrous power shift among the deities, Rachel and Lachlan forge an uncommon bond. But how can Lachlan tell the mortal woman he’s falling in love with that the next soul he’s been enlisted to gather—and deliver beyond—is her daughter’s?
Debut novel Drawn Into Darkness by Annette McCleave is the first book in a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series called the Soul Gatherers. Lachlan is doing penance as a Soul Gatherer with ninety-something years left on his sentence. He works for Death who just so happens to be a woman (a nice touch that). Lachlan’s mortal cover identity is that of a priest. Rachel, his neighbour, enlists his aid in extracting her fifteen year old daughter from the clutches of a predatory young man too old for her (he’s 22). Lachlan recognizes him as Drusus a lure demon.

Using alternating points of view we observe Rachel and Emily’s ordinary life contrasted with Lachlan’s extraordinary existence. Rachel’s struggles as a single mom feel authentic; juggling a career, a disaffected daughter and an indifferent, self-absorbed ex who Emily sees only through rose-coloured glasses. It is not at all surprising when Rachel longs for something more for herself and she feels a spark of desire for Lachlan. In her thoughts she thinks -
Honestly, if more clergymen looked like this, the churches would be full.
Lachlan’s scenes carry the action as he recovers souls - fighting off demons at every step. Unknown to Rachel, Death has also tasked Lachlan with protecting Emily. Her survival and destiny are important to Death, this significance reinforced by the efforts of the lure demon to seek her subversion and destruction. Lachlan’s situation is further complicated by a shared history that he has with the demon, an adversary that has plans for him and not just Emily.

The dual perspective is a very effective tension builder as we recognize Drusus’ seemingly innocuous dialogue with Emily for the lies and deceit that it is. It creates that mood that you experience when watching a horror film where you want to shout “don’t go into the attic” at the pretty young thing heading up the stairs. I found myself wanting to alert Emily similarly and identified with Rachel’s frustration and impotence at penetrating the cool assured demeanour of the demon. Lachlan’s own personal story is dark and tragic and how he came to be a Soul Gatherer is subtly revealed, adding nuance to the changes he undergoes during the stories events, in particular his growing affection for Rachel. These are characters that it is easy to care about.

My only reservation about the characters is that of Death. For a many millenia old being of untold power and influence, I expected a little more gravitas in her personality. I found her almost human foibles and flaws surprising. Others may feel differently.

The rules of heaven and hell that Lachlan is forced to adhere to seem stacked in the demon’s favour and options become limited, driving events towards what seems an inevitable and distressing conclusion. The final climactic scenes are both satisfying and well-orchestrated with Rachel stepping up to the plate to contribute to their plans. Drawn Into Darkness is only the beginning of the Soul Gatherers story, as it is only near the end that Rachel and Emily’s mundane existence is forever changed as they see the true Lachlan and the world beyond the veil of the ordinary. Emily’s nature and a peek into her destiny are revealed and I hope to read more of what is in store for all of them.

Drawn Into Darkness is a strong debut bringing together both solid characterization and a winning story line. Urban fantasy romance fans will likely want to add the Soul Gatherers series to their stable of guaranteed enjoyable reads. I will be watching closely for the release of Bound by Darkness in May 2010.

AUTHOR & BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Annette McCleave Website
Official Annette McCleave Blog

Penguin Group/Signet
Published: September 2009
ISBN #: 9780451227805
Format: Paperback
Pages: 332

Read an excerpt (link at bottom of page).

Soul Gatherer Series:
  1. Drawn Into Darkness
  2. Bound by Darkness

View the Book Trailer:


  1. Thanks for the review. This one is sitting in my Amazon cart and waiting for me to meet my writing goal so I can click BUY!

  2. Doug,

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


  3. Thanks Cherry. Always a thrill :)

    Hi Jory. The summer months have been good for strong debuts. I'm sure you'll enjoy this.

    Thanks Michelle. Bet that list is getting pretty long...

  4. Hi SciFiGuy,
    I just read this book and you're right, I loved this book and have added it to my stable of great reads :)

  5. Glad you liked it Leontine. I certainly want to know what happens next.

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