Friday, October 30, 2009

Review - Tainted by Julie Kenner

Lily Carlyle has never been a good girl. She's lied, cheated and stolen, but she did it all to protect her younger sister. To keep food on the table after their mother died. She'd made a promise, after all. A promise to take care of her sister. To keep the family together. And that's a promise she's determined to keep. Even to the death...

When her younger sister is brutally attacked, a vengeful Lily determines to exact her own justice on the monster responsible. She succeeds—at the cost of her own life. As she lies dying, she is given a second chance: though what she has done is evil, she can earn her way into Paradise by fighting for the forces of good. Lily agrees...

...and wakes in the body of Alice Purdue—a Boston barmaid who has more than a little familiarity with the battle raging between the Light and the Darkness. Each side is mustering their forces for all-out war—and Lily is going to become an assassin for the Light.

It's a job she believes she can really get into—but she doesn't realize that she may not be able to get out...
Tainted is the first book of a new urban fantasy series by Julie Kenner and it is a real page-turner. Right from the prologue our attention is grabbed when our heroine Lily Carlyle advises us with the opening line –
Can I just say that dying sucks?
Continuing for the better part of the novel, Lily is kept off balance as she awakens from her ‘death’ to find herself at the mercy of a hellish demon which she fights off and escapes only to be confronted by her not quite human ‘handler’ who explains her new situation to her. Oh and she finds herself in a new body – having to live that person’s life, and warned not to contact her sister or anyone from her old life.

Lily is informed she is to be given a chance at redemption – fighting for the Light and her task is to defeat the demons that are attempting to open the Ninth Gate of hell. Tainted is a strongly character-driven story. I loved everything about Lily – the fact that she had lived a less than admirable life, that she loved her sister to the point of committing murder to protect her, that she constantly struggles to do the right thing, that she’s compassionate and that she feels guilt over the life she thinks has been stolen from the body she inhabits. And especially her adaptability in facing her strange new circumstances.

Additional tension and edge is added to the story with Deacon, a man Lily feels attracted to but subsequently learns is a demon. But is he good or bad? What is the true nature of the affinity they share? Should she heed her handler’s advice to stay away or listen to her inner voice? In her new life she works at her uncle’s tavern which has a long history associated with supernatural events and the Dark Arts. She wonders and worries about a connection to her mission.

Lily’s task is supposed to be secret but she suffers demon attacks. How do they know who she is? What aren’t her handler and trainer telling her? This ratchets up the mystery and intrigue even further. There is plenty of action for every urban fantasy action fan, from Lily’s training sessions with her handlers to the battles with demons as she seeks out those that would open the gate, to destroy them before they can succeed. This action is nicely contrasted with scenes of seeming normalcy as Lily tries to fit in to the life of her new identity and surreptitious visits to observe her sister.

Just like the body of Alice Purdue that she has usurped, things in Tainted aren’t quite what they seem. Assumptions we make are challenged and there is a terrific twist near the end which will set a new course for the second act in the series.

Tainted is the first book in the Blood Lily Chronicles to be followed by Torn later in November and Turned at the end of the year. Julie Kenner exhibits a sure hand at delivering an urban fantasy adventure and characters that are sure to please. Like favourite comfort food, Tainted pushes all the right buttons and leaves you feeling satisfied and still wanting more. Thankfully it won’t be long to wait for Turned.


Read an excerpt of Chapter 1.

Listen to Julie's podcast of the complete text of Tainted at Kenner-Cast.

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)/Ace
Published: October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
ISBN #: 9780441017843

A Selection of Series by Julie Kenner

Blood Lily Chronicles:
  1. Tainted (Oct. 2009)
  2. Torn (Nov. 2009)
  3. Turned (Dec. 2009)
Demon Hunting Soccer Mom:
  1. Carpe Demon
  2. California Demon
  3. Demons Are Forever
  4. Deja Demon
  5. Demon Ex Machina (Oct. 2009)
Codebreaker Trilogy:
  1. The Givenchy Code
  2. The Manolo Matrix
  3. The Prada Paradox
Superhero Central:
  1. Aphrodite’s Kiss
  2. Aphrodite’s Passion
  3. Aphrodite’s Secret
  4. Aphrodite’s Flame
  5. Seeking Single Superhero
  6. A Step In The Right Direction
Young Adult:
  1. The Good Ghouls Guide To Getting Even
  2. Good Ghouls Do
  3. Olivia’s Odyssey


  1. Doug,

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


  2. I thought this book has great promise but I had a strange sense of deja vu while reading. I think I'm having UF burn out.

    As for Deacon... mmmm...

  3. Hey Michelle. This is one of those really satisfying reads. It doesn't tread a lot of new ground but the ground it does cover is solid and satisfying.

    KB I can see that happening, the burnout thing. I feel that Kenner is such a pro that we are pretty much guaranteed a solid UF read. UF creates certain expectations and Kenner has certainly hit all the marks which 90% of the time is what I am looking for.

  4. Sounds good. I couldn't get into her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (I really tried), but I'm optimistic about this series. Thanks Doug

  5. Hi Abigail, the chicklit style UF isn't for everyone. I liked it for the absurdity of the situations.

  6. I'm so curious about what will happen in Torn. The last quarter of this book caught me by several surprises, I didn't expect any of them. I like it when an author can sneak up on me like that in a story. Great review!

  7. Interesting. I'll keep a look out for this.

  8. From the beginning to the end all I could think about what was coming next. I enjoyed every toss and turn there was in the mix!


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