Joshua Winning – Vicious Rumer

Rumer Cross is cursed. Scraping by working for a dingy London detective agency, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a violent criminal dubbed the ‘Witch Assassin’ whose bloodthirsty rampage terrorised London for over a decade.

Raised by foster families who never understood her and terrified she could one day turn into her mother, Rumer has become detached and self-reliant. But when she’s targeted by a vicious mobster who believes she’s hiding an occult relic, she’s drawn into the very world she’s been fighting to avoid.

Hunted by assassins and haunted by her mother’s dark legacy, Rumer must also confront a terrible truth: that she’s cursed, because no matter what she does, everybody she’s ever grown close to has died screaming.

I read an early copy of Vicious Rumer when Josh was starting up his Unbound campaign for the book. I was familiar with Josh’s other work, mainly the first two books in his YA series The Sentinel Trilogy. I really liked those, so I was excited to read his latest. And while I wasn’t disappointed, I do have to say that I was surprised, because Vicious Rumer is oh so very different from Sentinel and Ruins. It’s far darker and more violent and while its protagonist is still in her teens it is a far more mature book in its concepts. 

The main draw of the book and the main reason I’d recommend it to people is the titular protagonist Rumer. She is fascinating and complex, besides being a complete badass. To start with that last aspect: Rumer is not afraid to use violence to save herself and is scarily good at it too. She ascribes this to her parentage, as her mum was the notorious Celene Cross a.k.a. the Witch Assassin. We see Rumer doing things and making decisions that we would usually ascribe to really bad and awful people, yet Josh manages to keep her sympathetic and even relatable.

Because Rumer is damaged. An orphan, she’s been brought up in various foster homes, which often were as awful as foster homes often are in books. And the few times she has opened her heart to others, let them and maybe even loved them, she just as quickly lost them, either through accident or illness. This has led to Rumer believing that she is cursed and that all who get close to her will die. As a result, when we meet her, she is a closed-off young woman with harsh edges and little trust in humanity. She tries to come off as tough-as-nails and uncaring, yet we also see that she longs for connection and to be seen for who she could be.

From the small cave-like room where she hides out and where she has created a memorial wall to her mum, papered with articles about her mum and how she died, to her reaching out to her former foster father and reconnecting with her former friend Bolt, these are all signs of Rumer wanting to understand who and what she is. Because as it turns out, there might be something supernatural about Rumer too.

The larger plot is action-packed and leads Rumer to not only discover more about her background, but also to square off against an evil kingpin. I adored the Reverend Mara as a villain, he was both awful and awesome at the same time. Once Rumer links back up with Bolt, the action triples and really moves at a breakneck speed.

Vicious Rumer is unpredictable, brutal and utterly compelling. It’s not for the squeamish or faint of heart, but otherwise you should definitely check it out if you like your thrillers with a dash of mystery and the supernatural.

This book was provided for review by the author.