The Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda 2010
U.S. Release Date: January 25, 2011 (Don't wait, order from the UK NOW)
IQ "Billi shrugged. She could pray in Latin, Greek, English and Arabic. She knew the direction of Mecca and the psalms. Did God really care?" pg. 56
(So as not to spoil the first book for anyone, I will merely refer to certain events that happened in Devil's Kiss as 'the Incident')
Billi Sangreal is dealing with the Incident the only way she knows how, by devoting herself to the Knigths Templar. The Knights Templar are tracking down werewolves who are growing bolder and attacking more and more humans. There is a reason the werewolves feel emboldened, they are on a mission entrusted to them by the Dark Goddess. They need to find Vasilia, a young girl who is a powerful Oracle (not that she knows that) that can control the weather based on her emotions. Once they find her, they will sacrifice her and use her powers to end the world (naturally the Dark Goddess will save the werewolves). Billi must save Vasilia from the Dark Goddess, but she must also keep Vasilia from destroying the world.
I've now come to expect Sarwat Chadda's books to have intense openings. This one opens up with a dramatic scene and we are off running, following Billi as she chases after werewolves. Part of why I love these books is because the threat of danger these monsters present is real. They will hurt you if they want to. The author puts so much time and research into these books. We travel to Russia and learn not only about Russian culture but about werewolves and their feminst undertones. The werewolves are called the Polensity and they are amazing. Agile, fearless and clearly in charge. I don't know anything about werewolves really, but I do know that it was quite refreshing to read about fierce female werewolves (even if they were a tad touched in the head). Plus there's so much action occurring! The Templars are always on the run, running to save someone, running to kill a monster, etc.
Billi has changed significantly since Devil's Kiss. She's barely holding on. Oh sure she's keeping up appearances, working harder than ever, but she's emotionally dead. Billi refuses to get close to Vasilia, even though the little girl is scared out of her mind and just wants to go home to Russia. It's so sad to see Billi acting so unkindly toward this little girl and yet it's understandable. Speaking of understanding, that's also why I love this series. The author creates these villains who are clearly out of control and yet he makes the reader UNDERSTAND why they think the way they do. Baba Yaga (the Dark Goddess) wants to end the world and start all over again because Earth is sick. There is so much war, poverty, environmental disasters, etc, she wants to make everything better. And there is so much wrong with the world. But obviously ending it is not the answer. In addition to leaning about Russian culture, religion/mythology, we also get to meet some new characters (Lance!). It becomes clear as to who one of the villains will turn out to be, but half the fun is waiting for Billi to figure it out and take him/her down. Thank goodness Ivan is around because he keeps Billi from sinking further into depression, he tries to get her to lighten up. And he gives her a gun. And she saves him. And that is awesome.
Dark Goddess is a strong sequel. There were real world consequences to actions undertaken by these characters and there were no mysterious explanations that left me unsatisfied. I think that I got to know Billi even more than in the first book because we see her at some of her lowest points. I hope that there is a third book because I desperately want to know more about Billi's Muslim heritage (and I love armchair traveling!). Also, we are losing quite a few characters and I'm ready to meet some new ones. The fabulousness of these books lie in assertive heroine (who is more vulnerable this go round), the chilling (pun intended?) setting of Russia, the female dominated society of werewolves and the villains that you can kinda-sorta-agree with. Oh and there is the huge moral dilemma in which Billi is always between a rock and a hard place. Billi's father reminds her that 'the world's not black and white. The bad guys come bright and beautiful and the good guys might look like monsters.' (pg. 109). This is true but Billi doesn't need to be reminded of it, she knows and understands this. However she wants to save everyone or die trying. Is that not a heroine worth reading about? I wish more people would read the Billi Sangreal series, I can't recommend them enough!
Disclosure: Received from Book Fairy #3. It's autographed! From the UK! Thank you!