After the death of her soulmate Kay by her very own sword, Billi SanGreal has thrown herself into the brutal regime of Templar duties with utter abandon. There is no room for feelings any more - her life is now about hunting down the Unholy.
But when Billi and another Knight Templar are caught at the heart of a savage werewolf attack, only Billi survives - except for a young girl at the scene who Billi unthinkingly drags away with her as they escape. But Vasalisa is no ordinary girl. She is an avatar with an uncontrollable power - and it's not only the werewolves who want her.
Billi has to flee to the frosty climes of Russia, with a human timebomb who, it seems, could destroy the world . .
Did you guys see how I lied? Last week I promised a review of Sarwat Chadda's The Dark Goddess but it never transpired.
You may well wonder why. The honest truth is I felt that my review would not do it justice. I wrote it, fangirling like a fangirl, shortly after I read the manuscript. Yes. The Manuscript. See the pic below. It's now slightly mangled from living in my bookbag for a while but it is precious to me and will get SC to sign it for me.
My review read like a twihard's stuttering after meeting RPatz in person of even Steph Meyer. Nothing wrong with that, true, but not the type of review I wanted to convey my feelings for The Dark Goddess.
So I deleted the whole thing, gave myself the weekend to get over myself. I now feel that I am now distanced enough to give a balanced review.
What struck me overall is how much Mr. Chadda has matured as a writer. There is a clear escalation of writing - both in story arc, conflict and character development. In The Devil's Kiss Billi was not a likeable character, not to me anyway. Oh, I admired her guts and had a lot of sympathy for her, but I really didn't want to hang out with her. She was self-absorbed, selfish, moody and a bit unpleasant to be around. However, she needed to be for her story to be told, for us to get to know her.
In The Dark Goddess we see a different side of Billi. At the end of TDK a Bad Thing happens. She loses someone very close to her. But as is the nature of real life, you have to go on. Especially so for the handful of Templars left. Billi is still a squire in the Templars and she's still the one that has to do drudge work. But her father, Arthur and the rest of the Templars, see her as a valued member of their team and not a liability. Her head is in the game. Probably too much so. She holds herself aloof, aware that if she fails at anything she does from now on, it can and will have disastrous consequences.
The novel opens with a fight against a group of female werewolves (the Polenitsy) who are keen to steal away a little Russian girl. The Templars fight them off and the little girl is saved. But her grandparents were killed during the attack, so the only thing they can do is take her with them back to Temple.
We soon realise that the girl is someone special. We witness it when she brings dying plants back to life before their disbelieving eyes. Arthur and his team realise that Vasilisa is an oracle, a visionary / psychic. And the werewolves want her so that they can sacrifice her to their goddess.
Fantastically fraught and an awful concept to conceive but honestly, the author makes it work. We suspend our disbelief, in his hands this world is real, we are hunted for our humanity and only Billi and her Templars can save us.
Slowly, the story is pieced together. It necessitates a trip to Russia to rescue Vasilisa and an opportunity to sort things out with the Polenitsy and hopefully stop the destruction of the world. You know, the usual events in Billi's life.
In Russia they team up with a band of warriors called the Bogatyrs lead by a chap called Koshchey. Billi also meets Prince Ivan Romanov, the last of the Russian royal line. He's Billi's age and he sounds like such a fantastic character and I am really looking forward to hearing more about him. Go and have a look at Sarwat's interview where I ask him about Ivan. He stands out in YA fiction to me - he has great potential and he needs guidance and someone to help him grow from being a stubborn, little bit spoiled, tough teen into an independent young man.
Well - saying more at this point will reveal too much of the story. But needless to say everyone does not go off and live happily ever after. There's a plane crash, there are wolves, there are fights, there is sneaking, there is betrayal on an epic scale and there is also death. The book runs a gamut of emotions and through Billi we get to experience all of it. She's such a fantastically cool creation and she is to be admired - holding her own in a nasty and unsympathetic world.
I can't urge you enough to give this book a try. It is unique in scope and character. A worthy urban fantasy for the YA market.
Also. Werewolves still rule. In my opinion. Even if they are sometimes a liiiiiitle bit bad.
The Dark Goddess is now out in all good book stores. Go, buy.