Thursday, August 4, 2016

ARC Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Series:     Soulwood #1
Pub. Date:Aug. 2, 2016
Length:384 pages

So this was my first read by Faith Hunter... I know, I know - I have been living under a rock! I have been meaning to start the Jane Yellowrock series, but I'm so far behind that I need to pick a month where I can work them all in at once.  Soon, I promise! This is a new spinoff series from Jane Yellowrock, but I didn't feel confuzzled for not having read the main series. So you should be fine if you have been keeping me company under my rock.

This story is so unique! I imagine the series will continue in the same vein, but I was utterly captivated from the first chapter. The setting of the story is East Tennessee - in the Knoxville/Maryville area near the Smoky Mountains. It really made me nostalgic for home... even though I prefer Middle TN to East TN most of the time. The setting doesn't require a lot of world building as the characters are operating in a modern world with the addition of supernatural creatures and magic. That being said, Faith Hunter did a fabulous job bringing the woods/nature to life in light of our heroine's special abilities.

Our heroine is Nell Nicholson, who has some type of earth magic. She isn't quite sure what she is - a Cherokee yinehi, a wood nymph, fae - but definitely not (completely) human. She was such a compelling character. Having escaped the restrictive confines of a polygamist cult with radical conservative Christian leanings, Nell has been living in backwoods Tennessee as a twenty-three year old "widder woman" on land adjacent to the Church's compound. The male cult hierarchy wants Nell back in the compound and under their rule, and she will need to be punished for her independent unwomanly ways. I enjoyed Nell's flexing of her magical muscles to try to discover exactly what she could do. She realizes in this book that although she has escaped the cult, she is still living her life as though she were one of the church women. Nell lives completely off the grid, wearing bland clothing, and carrying a fairly heavy distrust of government organizations. It was fun seeing her try things for the first time like pizza and Krispy Kreme and cell phones. However it was also interesting to see just how self-sufficient Nell without all the modern trappings to which we are accustomed.

Cults must be a new trend for the year as this is my fourth book this year featuring a cult. However, I have to say that this was one of the more interesting. There was a lot of detail about the men and the sister-wives and huge families of children. Not all of the cult was depicted as radical... there were some extreme misogynists and others that were more reminiscent of the polygamist Mormon community. Hunter didn't pull any punches about the age of marriage and some other realities of the cult, so it lent a realistic feel to that aspect of the story.

The secondary characters were fabulous. Special Agent Rick LaFleur, whom I understand is a character from the Yellowrock novels, is the team leader for a special division of DOD/DHS known as PsyLED, which polices paranormals. Nell becomes a consultant for this team, which consists of three were-leopards (including LaFleur), a witch, a human, and an empath. The were-leopards Paka and Occam were very feline in behavior and mannerism, and I always find that entertaining. Tandy the empath has been struck by lightening so many times that he has permanent Lichtenberg figures all over his skin... and he gets so wrapped up in other's emotions that he gets overwhelmed or doesn't eat. I loved Nell's mothering of Tandy, and foresee a close relationship between them going forward. There was some flirtation between Occam and Nell, and there may be a romantic relationship on the horizon. So I am looking forward to that. I didn't quite get the dynamic happening between Rick and Paka, but that may be a holdover from the Yellowrock books so I need to read those and find out.

The suspense of the book was fabulous. I enjoyed following the investigation with the PsyLED team, but loved that Jane and her deductive reasoning and backwoods logic often came up with the answer faster than anyone else. She really is smarter than people think, and she comes out with some shocking knowledge at times. I suspect there will be a new case for the team in each book, so I look forward to seeing what kind of trouble they find themselves in going forward.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Berkley has had some great releases over the past month so I am super appreciative to have been able to get some of these fabulous advance copies.

About the Author

Faith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. She writes three Urban Fantasy series: the Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock, a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires. The Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. And the Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. (There is a role playing game based on the series, ROGUE MAGE.)

Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 30+ books in print in 29 countries.

Hunter writes full-time, tries to keep house, and is a workaholic with a passion for travel, jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and writing. She and her husband love to RV, traveling with their rescued Pomeranians to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.

Find Faith online at her website, her blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.