Dark Time: Mortal Path Book 1
by Dakota Banks
What if a woman sold her soul to a demon and 300 years later wanted it back? In the 17th century, a woman is ripped from her husband’s arms, thrown in jail, and then set afire as a witch. Saved from the flames by an ancient Sumerian demon, she becomes the Black Ghost, his Ageless assassin gifted with otherworldly skills and superbly trained in martial arts. Centuries pass before Maliha Crayne finds a way out of the life she hates. If she achieves a balance between lives taken and lives saved, she’ll break the demon’s hold on her. If she fails, she will suffer the demon’s torment … forever.
What do an innocent woman sentenced to burn for practicing witchcraft and a pulp crime novelist moonlighting as an former assassin who now saves the lives she used to take have in common? The answer: nothing. And therein lies the problem with this book.
The main character starts out this book as Susannah Layhem, dutiful 17th century wife, herbalist healer, and expectant mother without a care in the world except how to fend off her overly amorous husband during the increasingly uncomfortable end of her pregnancy. When she is falsely accused of being a witch, abandoned by those closest to her, and then suffers a miscarriage due to maltreatment and harsh imprisonment, she willingly accepts a ‘deal with the devil’ (aka the Sumerian demon Rabishu) to escape a fiery death. She becomes an Ageless assassin, killing indiscriminately at Rabishu’s bidding. Fast forward about 300 years and Susannah wants out. She finds in the fine print of her demon contract a possible way out ; if she can save as many lives as she took she will be free. She starts her life over as Maliha (pronounced Ma-lie-hah), a 007 rip-off with all the expensive toys and boys a girl could want.
But Maliha is nothing like Susannah. When we first meet her, she is busy working on her tan a trying to think of new ways to pose in her bikini to attract a hottie a few feet away. She is unfortunately forced to ‘pose and run’ as a member of her network of saved lives calls in with a murder case for her to investigate. The rest of the book treats us to a confusing mash up of medical malpractice, drug smuggling, and corporate espionage . Sprinkled throughout all this, Maliha goes on a blind date, gossips with the boy crazy friend who set her up, works on her next hit book entitled, A Lust for Murder, and worries way too much that she might be in love with her blind date (while still engaging in casual sex with a local P. I.). In short she does everything except what you would expect: anguish over the insurmountable task in front of her. She is not the dark, brooding character she should be, given her history. She is not wracked with guilt over her past crimes nor is she consumed with desire to even the scales. She almost seems put out when she gets called away from all her fun.
What!?! Did I pick up the wrong book? Was there a mix-up at the printer? This was supposed to be an Urban Fantasy, not a Chic-Lit Mystery. And yet once Susannah becomes Maliha, the paranormal elements seem to die with her. There are a few passing references to the demon bargain, and a few mentions to Summerian mythology. But that’s about it.
This should have been a great book. The premise is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. One I could easily imagine supporting a long series, and yet sadly, the author largely ignored the great opportunity she created and instead produced a generic thriller weighed down with chic-lit elements and bad dialog:
“What money? By now all records of your transaction have been wiped out. No one can follow the money trail because there isn’t any. What blackmail? The Black Ghost was never here.”
A warning is also appropriate because there is a sexual predator in this book and the author includes chapters from his perspective. One that includes him assaulting a woman while she sleeps, his running thoughts leading up to and throughout the assault , and his future plans of brutally raping her. I cannot emphasize enough how ugly this part was to read.
The bottom line is this: with Susannah, I cared; with Maliha, I didn’t.
Sexual Content: A couple brief sex scenes. A chapter written from the perspective of a sexual predator.