I might write epic fantasy, but I have to say that I love reading urban fantasy a lot more than epic. There’s just something about vampires, werewolves, and ghouls (oh my!) that pulls me in, even though I have no desire whatsoever to write them. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reading copy of Chauntelle Baughman‘s book Magick Marked, which is the first in her DarqRealm Series. This book is definitely an example of how the book can prove to be ten times better than the blurb. The blurb didn’t really get me super-excited. It sounded interesting enough, so I figured I would give it a shot. And man, was I blown away.
Forced into a world of ancient magick and fabled creatures, vampire Rhowen Vasile has been honored with the prestigious appointment of executioner—a promotion she never wanted. Now she has two important responsibilities: execute criminal vampires and protect her race’s Kamen, one of five ancient relics said to harness all magick in the DarqRealm.
When the Kamen Rho swore to protect goes missing, she’s assigned the most important task of her life—join an interracial team with a magick mover, a werewolf and a shape shifter to recover what’s been lost. If she fails, the executioner will become the executed, and the magick held within the relics could be lost forever.
As other Kamens start to disappear and the teammates struggle to trust one another, Rho discovers a physical bond with a powerful magick mover that shouldn’t be possible. With the survival of the entire DarqRealm compromised, she barely has time to deal with her temperamental teammates, much less a forbidden attraction. Rho and her team must put everything aside to find what they seek—before the enemy finds it first.
This is definitely an example of the book being 10x better than what I expected after reading the blurb.
I didn’t expect to connect with the characters as much as I did, but these characters really do jump off the page. Chauntelle Baughman does such a great job of being in their heads without giving you too much that I had to remind myself it wasn’t written in first person. I felt as though they were talking to me, which creates a much deeper connection and draw to the characters for me.
This gets a bit spoilery, so be warned.
The love story was really well played out. I felt like the resistance was done well and the progression was natural. Rho wasn’t completely emo because she felt like things would never work with Eldon. It’s just a fact to her, even if it is one she isn’t happy with (though she’ll barely admit that to herself). They both have faults (stubborn, independent, argumentative) and instead of trying to change that about one another or battle over dominance, it seems that the faults they have in common only draw them to each other more, giving them insight into what the other is thinking in a way they haven’t experienced with anyone else before.
The inter-race relations is also very interesting. They’ve all been raised to think they know about the other race(and that their race is superior, of course), but they’re proved wrong. First impressions might emphasize those stereotypes (like Tim acting like a testosterone driven jock at the beginning when Eldon stupidly downplays the bond between a pack), but we get to see the layers to each character as they discover those layers about one another.
I loved that Rho wasn’t this perfect, graceful, seductive, all-knowing vampire. She was vulnerable. She was lonely. She was damaged. But she was also prideful and had her walls up. She was more human than you would expect in a vampire story.
The action and suspense really kept you turning the pages. I’ve been at DragonCon reading this, and any spare moment I had, I pulled out this book. Once I got to chapter twenty, I was ready to go back to the hotel and finish it off. And I am definitely ready for book two!