Stars: 3 / 5
Night Shift is a collection of four novellas by four authors who have mastered the art of spinning stories in urban fantasy and paranormal romance - Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane and Lisa Shearin - published in November of 2014. Here is the review of the fourth novella.
The Beast Of Blackmoor is the fourth novella in the book written by Milla Vane and is the Barbarian #1 in the same series. The plot revolves around a warrior princess and the taming of The Beast of Blackmoor. This is her first story as Milla Vane, but she has written other paranormal and steampunk romances as Meljean Brook.
The book opens with Kavik of Blackmoor after enjoying ale to his hearty fill - celebrating the victory, his first victory in a battle - walks off the inn only to be drawn to a temple to moon Goddess, Vela. Frustrated with the fights, unable to kill the warlord Barin or the demon freed by the Destroyer, asks for a quest to the priestess to finish Barin. But the priestess refuses to give which puts an already intoxicated and frustrated Kavik in fury and insults the Goddess. The priestess flings him out of the temple with a curse - do whatever he may to save his people, at the moment when he loses everything she will come again to twist the knife and that he should watch for a woman in red, for she would be the one to bring him down.
Then plot heads into sometime in future where a woman named Mala is riding her horse, Shim to Blackmoor - where she is sent to tame a beast - wearing a red hood marking her that she was on another quest from Vela, the moon goddess. The land of Blackmoor was as dry as dust despite the drizzle of rains and her path lead through Vela's Labyrinth - a maze of canyons supposedly dug by the Goddesses finger nails while she was in labor giving birth to the twins Justice and Law. Her travel had been lonely until she came upon a caravan coming out of the crevice of the canyon. But before they could cross the barren land and reach the bridge over the river, a swarm of revenants attack them - wraiths who have been made from living beings but drained of everything in them. She aids the caravan and along with the warrior who was accompanying the caravan kill all the revenants. Only to find herself the target of the warrior who was determined to have her, and called her as "little dragon" as though he knew her.
Who was this warrior? Why does he think he knows her? It was all a confusion for Mala and puts her defenses up to fight him through. But the need to help the caravan after the fight took over and while she pursued that task she comes to know the warrior was Kavik who traveled with the caravan till the bridge to protect them from the revenants and returned back to Blackmoor to repeat the task again with other travelers. Without understanding why her body sings to him and he seems to know her. More questions for Mala without any answers as she continues into Blackmoor to pursue her quest while Kavik proceeds with the caravan to the bridge.
Has the curse placed on Kavik come true, now that he met the woman in red? Who is the demon that Mala has to tame? And why would the goddess want her to tame the beast rather than kill him? Will warlord Barin cause her trouble?
The plot picked-off really good making me remember Game of Thrones books. Setting in a medieval kind of time somewhere on the planet with all the elements of kings, warlords and demons along-side humans and magic. What I didn’t like was a very public sexual scene between the two lead characters. Mala so defiantly objects for the warlord and his army to treat humans as playtoys and mis-use them, when she herself puts as a toy in front of Kavik in a public display. That whole scene disturbed me a lot. Perhaps it was to make Kavik realize more about her, but isn't their public sexual activity same as what the warlord does? Of course it was only just between the two of them, still that whole scene couldn’t sit well for me. Also I was left confused as to who was The Destroyer as the author kept mentioning it. Was it Warlord Barin? Or the Demon Tusk? Or was there a third villain?
Other than that it has been an excellent read. Will I pick her books again sometime? I am not sure. The jury is still out. :) All in all a good novella to enjoy and a quick read.
1) Language is so different and old-world, for instance - eyetooth is used to mean a canine tooth on the upper jaw; brocs (perhaps means pants or boxers based on the usage but couldn’t find the meaning), cuirass (a piece of armor)