A review by Evie Kendal
Darkness Hunts is the fourth book of the Dark Angels series by Melbourne-based paranormal romance and urban fantasy author, Keri Arthur. The series focuses on Risa Jones, a half-Aedh, half-werewolf born of a lab-created female clone and an Aedh priest. Aedhs are reminiscent of angels in the series (due to their appearance), however they are more accurately paranormal creatures with the ability to walk the “gray fields” – the space dividing Earth from Heaven and Hell. Risa is also able to see Reapers as they collect souls for their passage to the afterlife, and interact with the dead.
The Dark Angels series has various cross-over points with Arthur’s earlier Riley Jenson Guardian series. Much like her aunt Riley, Risa blames her werewolf libido for a lot of her relationship issues. Similarly, many of Risa’s sexual habits throughout the series are just plain unhygienic. There is a lot of focus on hormones and physical attraction in both these series, but very little on emotional connection. Fortunately, in Darkness Hunts there is an underlying detective plot to counteract this deficit.
At the start of the novel Risa approaches a witch with her partner-in-crime-but-not-in-life, Azriel. While Azriel and Risa have admitted their attraction to each other by this point in the series, there is a strict non-involvement policy in place because of the demands of their mission. The two are tasked with hunting down the otherworldly creatures searching for the keys to the light and dark portals so they can lock the gates to Heaven and Hell permanently. Azriel is a Mijai, a dark angel responsible for hunting down creatures escaping from hell. It is in order to stop such breakouts that the rogues want to close the gates, meaning no souls could cross-over or be reborn.
With the assistance of the witch, Risa manages to communicate with the ghost of a recent murder victim, whom she believes may have information about another murder case she is investigating. While she is wandering the astral plane, Risa is approached by a figure with no face, who tells her the next victim only has twenty minutes of life left in the human world. Risa desperately searches for the victim when she returns to the human realm, but arrives too late – the female vampire has already been murdered and drained of blood. Thus begins the cat-and-mouse game between Risa and the featureless killer. Although Risa has the power to find the killer, using her gifts will risk her safety and that of her mission.
In this series otherworldly creatures are registered at the Directorate of Other Races and live among a somewhat tolerant human population; swords have names and can exist as shadows, drip blue fire and occasionally take over their owners’ bodies; and dragon tattoos can come to life as spirit guardians. However, what is most unique about this series is the setting, which is recognisably Melbourne, albeit with some unusual additions. With so few internationally known authors using an Australian setting, this element warrants attention. I think I remember Arthur saying at the inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention in 2009 that there was concern her Melbourne-centric stories wouldn’t translate for the international market, with some people suggesting she change the location details to major US cities. As an Australian reader however, it is refreshing to hear the names of familiar places, such as Lygon Street and Southern Cross Station.
The Dark Angels series is recommended for established fans of Arthur’s other series, but would also make a good entry-level series for new readers. There is enough context provided for the intertextual references involving characters from Riley Jenson for them to make sense, even if some of the significance might be lost. It is also possible to start reading the series at Darkness Hunts, as it recaps the major plot developments of the series so far. As with all Arthur’s urban fantasy novels though, Darkness Hunts is only suitable for an adult audience.