June 2008, Urban Fantasy
Avon, $6.99, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0060898933 Part of a series
With The Touch of Twilight, it becomes apparent that Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac series just keeps getting better and better as she creates ever-more intriguing characters and engages in fantastic and complex world-building. Readers going into this novel should be aware that it is likely impossible to understand much of the plot without reading the two preceding books, The Scent of Shadows and The Taste of Night. But the series is so addicting that I don't consider this to be a hardship.
Without spoiling the series for anyone, I will simply set the stage by mentioning that the heroine, Joanna Archer, comes from a very privileged background as the daughter of a successful Las Vagas casino owner. Her world turns upside down when she learns that she has also inherited a place as an Agent of Light in the Zodiac. Two Zodiacs exist in the city, one of Light and one of Shadow. The two are locked in endless combat, and now Joanna's destiny is to fight on the side of Light.
For a variety of reasons, Joanna's place in the Zodiac will be difficult for her to fill. Over the course of all three books, readers see the various battles Joanna must fight with herself over hurtful events in her past and the betrayals of her deeply selfish father. Joanna's struggles come to a head in this book as she learns that her inability to overcome her own trials could cause the downfall not just of herself, but of the entire side of Light.
In addition to preparing and fighting against the Shadow Zodiac, Joanna struggles to find her place among the agents of Light. An unexpected addition to their troop, Joanna has not exactly received the most enthusiastic reception from everyone since her existence changes the alliances and positions of power within the Light Zodiac. Though the plot is complex and Joanna does accomplish some great things, the fact that she has to fight and prove herself constantly makes her more appealing than the naturally kick-ass heroines populating the landscape nowadays.
Against the backdrop of the epic struggle for Las Vegas, Joanna also finds herself torn between her old life and the new. In her former life, Joanna sought solace from her past in her photography and her beloved Ben Traina. Though she still loves Ben, her position in the Zodiac has ripped her away from him while she also feels a disturbing attraction to Hunter Lorenzo, the Light's weapons master. Joanna's internal struggle over these two relationships plays an important role in all of the books, but grows especially intense in this installment.
The world created by Vicki Pettersson in The Touch of Twilight will appeal to anyone who likes their characters morally conflicted and living in complex worlds with more than a touch of darkness to them. While there are a few times when the world-building feels a little too convenient or characters seem to be plowing the same ground they've covered too many times before, the series is overall a very strong one. For anyone who is curious, The Scent of Shadows would probably earn a B- from me as it took me some time to really make myself want to believe in the world being created, but The Taste of Night and this latest installment would both get strong B's from me and I recommend this series to anyone looking for some good vampire and werewolf-free urban fantasy.
-- Lynn Spencer
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