Liz de Jager – Vowed

lizdejager-vowedA Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils…

Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.

Then Kit digs too deep, and uncovers a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.

In a nice cyclical move, the penultimate book I review in 2014 is the sequel to the second book I reviewed this year. Full disclosure: Liz de Jager is a dear friend. This doesn’t mean I haven’t read this novel critically, because I have. Besides, she would kick my ass if she thought I’d cut her slack. But for the sake of transparency I thought it important to mention it upfront.

Vowed is the second book in De Jager’s Blackhart trilogy and returns us Kit a number of months after the ending of the last book. Having physically recovered from her ordeal at the end of Banished, Kit has not escaped unchanged, both magically and mentally. Her magic has bloomed and become for more powerful than it was before, while her heart remains somewhat the worse for wear after the events of the previous book and her separation from Thorn. Now located in London, the irrepressible Kit is working the family business and taking on assignments on her own. This brings us to the case at the heart of Vowed. Because this case she can’t work alone. Her employer demands she work together with Dante Alexander, a member of the Spook Squad. And Kit is not amused with this development. 

I loved the set up for Vowed. As I mentioned in my review for Banished, I was left wondering where on earth Vowed would take Kit’s story as Banished didn’t really leave a hook for the next book, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started Vowed. But Kit’s situation at the start allows for an almost episodic treatment of the story, not quite the monster-of-the-week format Buffy employed to such good effect, but a similar independent, but clearly linked structure. It also means that one does not have to read Banished to understand Vowed.

Vowed’s biggest draw, like the previous book, remains Kit Blackhart. I just absolutely adore her. She’s such a fun, interesting character and she does one-liners with the best of them. The way she’s trying to come to terms with what happened with her and Thorn made me ache for her, especially when she finds herself drawn to Dante and immediately starts feeling guilty over it. She swings between wanting to hide under her duvet and dealing like a boss, and it just felt really genuine. De Jager also manages to develop Kit’s relationship with her family beautifully, even if we only see her cousin Kyle and Aunt Letitia “on screen”. But through the things Kit says about her family and the telephone conversations she has with her uncles, the reader gets a true sense of kinship and a close-knit family bond, which I loved. And of course there is Kyle. I was stoked to see him as much as we do, because he is my favourite of Kit’s cousins. I love the geeky genius boy.

Kit isn’t just close to her family. There is also her best friend Aiden, one of the Garrett pack. I love their friendship and the way that they are straight with each other and able to be angry with each other without it meaning the end of the friendship or being a big major drama. Also their howls of laughter whenever anyone suggests they might be more than friends is hilarious and never rings false. During Vowed Kit becomes close to her unwanted partner as well. She and Dante warm to each other and I liked their dynamics. It helps that Dante is a lovely guy with a fascinating secret. I look forward to see how his character is developed after the discoveries he makes in this book. I hope he gets to stick around, because he makes a great partner for Kit.

The case Kit and Dante have to solve is creepy and complicated, leading them to discover awful things about the way the world works and how sometimes we are powerless to stop them. I liked the way the investigation also allows us to see more of Kit’s world and the creatures within it, such as Milton’s, the club she frequents, and its numerous supernatural visitors or Professor Imelda Thorpe, historian and anthropologist, and Kit’s go-to source on ancient pagan practices. I loved the breadth and scope of De Jager’s supernatural world and the best thing about it is that it feels as if she’s only shown us a quarter of Kit’s world.

My one criticism of the book would be the fact that I figured out the identity of the Raggedy Man quite a bit before Kit and Dante did. I don’t like feeling smarter than the protagonists of a book, I want to be in the moment of discovery with them. Then again, I know there are plenty of people who love beating the main character to the punch in solving the mystery, so this complaint is definitely of the YMMV-variety. In addition, the discovery of the Raggedy Man’s identity was only the first step in locating the children and the resolution to the mystery broke my heart.

With Vowed De Jager has upped her writing game considerably; her strong voice remains and the story is even more tightly plotted. Unlike at the end of Banished, this time there is a clear hook into the next book Judged. I can’t wait to see where De Jager will take Kit and company after the explosive ending of Vowed, but I know I will be there for the ride. You don’t have to read Banished before picking up Vowed, but I recommend that you do, because it add to the depth of the world and why miss out on a great story? Vowed is a high-octane, massively entertaining read, which had me laughing out loud more than once. Now when is the next book out? Because my Grabby Hands of Want™ are aching for it.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.