Dark Defender

 
Redeemed in Darkness
by Alexis Morgan
(Pocket Star, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-4165-4713-6
***
In this, the fourth book of her Palladin series, Alexis Morgan focuses on the alternative world on the other side of the barrier. When telling Lusahn q'Arc's and Cullen Finley's story, Morgan also explores some of the reasons why Others have been goingover to the other side.

Lusahn q'Arc first met Cullen Finley when they crossed swords in battle. He is a Palladin, a warrior who defends earth from the Others. Lusahn is one of those hated and feared Others, or Kalith as they call themselves. Not just any Kalith, either. She is a Sworn Guardian, trained to protect her people.

Her brother Barak (who features in In Darkness Reborn) has recently defected to the human world. Although Lusahn feels abandoned and betrayed, she has agreed to meet him. Cullen comes in his place and finds himself trapped on the wrong side. Against her better instincts (but in accordance with her lust), Lusahn gives him refuge and keeps his presence hidden. Their mutual attraction brings them closer together as does their determination to uncover the smugglers of precious energy-creating stones.

Lusahn is a strong and capable warrior woman in every possible way. One of the best sword fighters around, she has risen to become the leader of a Blade, a small armed patrol. Her gender rarely gets in the way of her military duties and her leadership skills, but her disappointment with her brother and her devotion to her adopted children expose a vulnerable side to this tough soldier.

Cullen quickly perceives and appreciates Lusahn's contrasting nature. This is one alpha warrior who is proud of his warrior woman and quite willing to let her carry the sword and even wear the britches. His attitude is refreshing in a sub-genre which is over-populated with chest-thumping cavemen.

Despite this and despite the fact that Lusahn and Cullen have shared professional interests, their relationship remains rather superficial. It's pretty much based on instant attraction. Cullen is barely inside Lusahn's house when they begin to undress for each other and to engage in fairly explicit interactions. This is hardly what one would expect from sworn enemies and good soldiers. Oddly enough, the second half of the book features almost no such episodes. Lusahn and Cullen are too busy ferreting out the different conspiracies to actually get to know each other in any way.

This part of the book had other problems: I wasn't entirely convinced by one of the turns their investigation takes. Lusahn and Cullen unmask an unexpected traitor but never elucidate his motives. This left me slightly puzzled and confused.

Eventually, Lusahn and Cullen uncover some high-level corruption, but several questions, including the overriding objectives of the conspirators, go answered. Not to worry: there are several Palladin and Kalith warriors standing by, waiting to pick up the loose pieces and star in future books.

Redeemed in Darkness is the fourth book in the series, but it is quite readable on its own as I can personally testify. I'm not sure, however, that beginning here is advisable. I suspect that part of the pleasure must come from discovering that Others aren't as evil as originally implied. I bet readers will enjoy the book more if they begin at the beginning. From what other reviewers (including those on this site) are saying, they won't be disappointed.

--Mary Benn


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