on 26 October 2014
Juliana Norris is half-fae, half mage, and a Realm Walker, a type of police officer who investigates crimes done to, and by, the fae. Juliana can also see the magical signature and aura of both people and fae. To do this, she works for the International Law Enforcement Agency, or Agency for short, and after a fight with a troll, the troll tells Juliana that her death is coming. So while recovering from her fight up turns Thomas Kendrick, a thousand year-old vampire that Juliana is bound to, and that she is in love with, but who left her, and broke her heart, seven years ago.
Unfortunately, after Thomas had left her, Raoul DeSoto and his minions attacked, raped, and tortured Juliana. Afterwards Juliana and Michael Bishop, Thomas' second, tracked down all of the rogue vampires and dispatched them with extreme prejudice. All except Raoul, who's still on the loose, and now he's back, just as Thomas shows back up. It seems that Thomas had misunderstood Juliana when she had stated that she had need of some "me" time, and he will spend the rest of the novel trying to make up for his misunderstanding.
Unfortunately, that Raoul has turned up as Thomas comes back into Juliana's life is no coincidence. Raoul had been a mage before being turned into a vampire, but being vampirized will kill those powers, and now he's looking for a way to reclaim his old mage powers, and to do this, he has made a deal with the devil, so to say, and in the process he has let loose two demons on the world. One has possessed her werewolf friend and partner Nathanial, while the other, a first-class demon, will possess . . . well, it will come as no surprise, but you'll have to read the novel to find out who. The trouble is that Juliana can see everybody's magical signature, that is, everybody's except for demons.
Now Juliana is in a tight spot, she has to rescue Nathaniel by killing the demon, while not killing the host. That's okay, but when the Agency puts out a kill order on the second possession, and its host, Juliana has to figure out how to save the possessed while not killing them. All while trying to keep her job and not have the Agency kill her friend. Another problem is that the demons can jump hosts, usually when they've used up the host, so just killing the demon's host isn't a good idea.
What follows in "Realm Walker" is a cat-and-mouse game between Juliana and the demon as the demon starts its bloody rampage. And what does Raoul have to do with all of this? True, he's responsible for the demons to have been set loose on the populace, but what was the POINT?
This is a story in which Collins will plunk you down into a fully-formed world with the assumption that her audience will have an IQ above that of room temperature and will catch on, and you will. Sure, Juliana has a past, but much of which you'll be gradually filled in on during the process of Collins tellin' Juliana's story. I mean, I don't have to have everything explained in detail to me, I got what was needed. The rest is background to put the current story into contrast, and besides, we never DID learn what the Giant Rat of Sumatra was in the Sherlock Holmes stories either.
One of the great things about this novel is the characters contained within. The first, of course, is Juliana. Juliana is a character who is haunted by Thomas' abandonment, her mistreatment by Raoul, her mysterious parentage, and that she seemingly can't be killed by ordinary means. Although, as we, and Juliana, finds out, that ain't necessarily true. She's also no shrinking violet, she's fiercely independent, she's competent at her job, if fact, she's the best that the Agency has, and she knows that and she's not gonna give up her job for nothing. Even if she's confused as to where she now stands in her world now that Thomas has come back into it to shake it up. Oh, and like most of us, she's got a boss who's a real dick.
Then there is her new family, Thomas' sister Sara Piper, her husband, top mage James, and Rachel, their young daughter. True, at times their characters are rather sketchy, but it's Juliana's fierce loyalty to them that I liked. These characters will take increasing important roles in Juliana's story over this novel and its sequel.
On the other hand, I didn't quite buy into Thomas. After a thousand years, his only love is Juliana? Yeah? Must have been a long, lonely thousand years. Now he starts off as an arrogant, possessive sphincter, but he gets better as the novel progresses, but as a character he has two real problems, at least for me. The first is that he constantly acts like some glorified cartoonish version of a frustrated twentieth century male instead of a thousand year-old vampire overlord. At times I thought that I was reading the equivalent of a sit-com. Make him a couple of hundred years old and I could have bought it. I did like that all holy hell is gonna rain down on those who messed with Juliana when he finds Raoul, and those who may have helped Raoul, and deceived Thomas. When he finds out who they all are.
The other is the longevity of the vampires and some of the other fae. C'mon, a thousand years, give or take a couple of hundred? Really? For me, it's so hard to identify with immortals, they live forever, stay beautiful forever, and never age, and yet they still retain their humanity? Nah, I don't buy it.
Still, I liked the story, but really, it's the character of Juliana, and Collins' handling of her, that carries the novel. Juliana goes from snark to sarcasm, all delivered with a trademarked bad attitude.