With the wounds of her last battle barely healed, fifteen-year-old Templar Billi SanGreal is back. In Dark Goddess, Sarwat Chadda picks up the story of the schoolgirl knight we first met in Devil's Kiss, and gives her an even more formidable foe to fight. It's goodbye London and hello Russia as Billi and co head off to rescue a gifted young girl from legendary witch Baba Yaga, who plans to wreak a terrifying destruction on mankind.
Having struggled with her calling in Devil's Kiss, the Billi we meet in Dark Goddess is stronger, more determined, and much more accepting of her Templar duty. She's quick-witted, tenacious and one hundred percent fierce. Thanks to a too-close encounter with an Unholy, Billi finds herself struggling with the darkness within, and she still wrestles with some of the more horrifying things that she's called upon to do. There's also a whisper of (thankfully slush-free) romance, as the mysterious Ivan enters the picture and instantly sets sparks flying with our butt-kicking leading lady.
One of the things that defined Devil's Kiss was its London setting: the sense of a whole secret world of Templars and Unholy hiding just beneath the surface of such a familiar city. This time around, Chadda gives a new location the same treatment. It's a story that takes us from the cold streets of Moscow to vast ancient forests to the concrete ruins of Chernobyl; a story that introduces us to Russian folklore, to a surviving Romanov heir, and to a tribe of werewolves that are more than a match for Billi SanGreal. All of these very different threads are woven seamlessly together into an enthralling tale full of action, intrigue and breathtaking battle scenes. My only complaint would be a couple of difficulties that I had with the pacing - the action slowed right down a couple of times, and at one point sped up so much that I had to read a section twice - but on the whole I read this one in a blissful page-turning frenzy.
As with Devil's Kiss, this is a book that'll make you think. As Baba Yaga's plan to destroy mankind begins to take shape, it becomes clear that she has her reasons, and perhaps they do justify wiping us all off the face of the Earth. After all, can anyone honestly deny that human beings harm the Earth every single day? And while it's Billi's duty to protect human life at all cost, Dark Goddess illustrates that as a species we pose a threat of our own. Even in the eternal battle of good versus evil, Chadda illustrates that there are always shades of grey.
Dark Goddess is an exciting and captivating instalment in the story of Billi SanGreal and the Templars. Although I suppose it could be read as a standalone, I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to give Devil's Kiss a miss. My advice is to read them both.