But Kayla is not all that she appears.
And when Lucky is visited by a demonic assassin with a message for her friend, she finds herself dragged into the Underlands – and the political fight for the daemon king’s throne.
Lucky, trapped in the daemon world, is determined to find her way home… until she finds herself caught between the charms of the Guardian Jamie, the charismatic Daemon of Death Jinx – and the lure of finding out who she really is.
I love hidden worlds parallel to our own, as witnessed by my love for Emma Newman’s The Split Worlds and Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers books. So when I read the synopsis for Sue Tingey’s debut Marked when Jo Fletcher Books announced their acquisition of the story, my interest was immediately piqued. I was very lucky to have the chance to get an extra early look at Marked and I’m really glad for the chance, because Marked is a wonderful story.
The basic premise of Marked, that of a girl able to see ghosts, one of whom is her best friend Kayla, who has been with as long as she can remember, is great. It creates an interesting starting point as her abilities have turned Lucky into somewhat of a recluse, avoiding crowded places so she won’t run into the dead. She makes a living writing and sometimes consulting people who have a ghost problem. The status quo is disturbed first by an exorcism – or rather Lucky’s version of it – gone wrong and later by the arrival on her doorstep of a young man who pleads for her help. I was immediately captivated by Lucky’s voice. When I first received the book I had a quick glance at the first page and found myself two pages in before I knew it. When I sat down to read the book properly, the same thing happened. Tingey has a very comfortable writing style that draws you on and keeps you reading and Lucky’s voice comes through clearly. As a main character Lucky is easy to relate to and she has a wonderfully wry sense of humour. She’s also seemingly quite content with her life, so she isn’t really happy about having it shaken up. But she is also genuinely kind and when faced by a young man who needs help – the kind of help only Lucky can give – she can’t make herself turn him away, despite Kayla’s exhortations to do just that.
Marked has three main subplots: solving the mystery of who is behind the attacks on Lucky and Kayla, figuring out who Lucky really is and then there is the romance. The mystery of who sent the demonic assassin Henri Le Dent, or Henry Toothy Pegs as Lucky dubs him, to summon Kayla back to the Underlands reveals some pretty convoluted politicking in those Underlands. Following Lucky’s attempts at untangling all of the possible leads was a lot of fun. My one complaint with the story would be that there were a lot of misdirections and steps to retrace in this mystery plot and at times it became so complicated that it was hard to keep the lines of power and who influenced who straight.
In her attempts to figure things out, Lucky is inevitably brought to the Underlands, which was a setting that I adored. I loved that the Underlands were Heaven and Hell combined or rather there are no Heaven and Hell, there is just the Underlands. The Underlands are a cut-throat, “every daemon for themselves”-kind of place and affection, much less love, is a luxury most cannot afford. It is also in the Underlands that Lucky discovers her true nature and history, a discovery that very much distresses her. Her gradual understanding and acceptance of the situation was well-developed and lovely to see, especially once she realises that despite everything she dislikes about Underlands society, she loves the friends she’s made there.
Those friends are mainly her bodyguards, but also her best friend Kayla. I loved her bodyguards: Mr Kerfuffle, Mr Shenanigans (those names me giggle when we first meet them, because on first impression they should be the other way around), the wonderful, lovely dragon Pyrites, and of course Guardian Jamie and Death daemon Jinx. The latter two are the ones we get to know best, especially as they are the book’s love interests. Now stop rolling your eyes—yes it is a love triangle, but no Tingey doesn’t follow the trope. I actually loved how this triangle was resolved, which is a hard thing to do, because love triangles are always a hard sell for me. The interplay between Jamie, Jinx, and Lucky was delicious and I loved the way Tingey gave a big, fat wink to Jamie and Jinx’s natures in their physical appearances. While the romance was great and I loved seeing these relationships develop, the more interesting relationship – conflict-wise, that is – was the friendship between Lucky and Kayla. The angst Lucky feels when she discovers Kayla has lied to her, the trust issues, but the undeniable deep bond of affection that remains despite her anger at being lied to, they all served to make this friendship layered and feel very true.
The one problem with getting an advanced review copy of a book this early, is that it takes that much longer before I’ll be able to read the next book and in the case of Marked that is a big problem. I loved this book. The characters, the atmosphere, the humour, the romance, it all worked. Marked is a wonderful debut for Tingey and the start of what looks to be a great trilogy. At the end of the book, we leave Lucky in a good spot, but the battle is far from over, in fact, it has hardly begun. So I’m left with only the one question: “When is the next book out?” Marked will be out in May and if you’re a fantasy fan in general and of supernatural or urban fantasy in particular, I highly recommend you check it out when it does.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.