Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood #1
Published by Roc
Published on: August 2 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.
When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.
Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.
Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…
I’ve been waiting for BLOOD OF THE EARTH, the first installment of Faith Hunter’s new SOULWOOD urban fantasy series since she revealed its existence at Dragon Con 2014. It was still being written at the time, but based on the details Hunter revealed—set in Oak Ridge, TN, with a maybe Fae (or at least part Fae) heroine—I’ve been squeeing internally for nearly two years.
1. Fae are my supernatural creature of choice.
2. Oak Ridge is in my backyard.
For those of you not from or residing in Eastern Tennessee and/or aren’t science geeks, Oak Ridge is the “Secret City,” home of the Manhattan Project (better known as the making of the atomic bomb). If war ever brings foreign attacks stateside, Oak Ridge will be one of the first places to go.
Kinda cool, kinda freaky.
Y-12 is still a super sekret government facility, and nobody knows what they’re doing there these days, but . . . When I was a teenager, visiting my dad one summer, a local news story about a gaggle of radioactive geese found on the grounds that had to be buried like twelve (twenty?) feet underground was circulating, AND I happen to know that civilian employees have to wear radiation detectors while clocked-in, sooooo . . . Whatever they’re doing, it’s not baking cookies.
And having the inside scoop (for once) on the locale also meant that I knew “Farrington” was really “Farragut,” and the “Wyatt School” was really the “Webb School of Knoxville.”
You don’t care about tiny gov’t towns doing whoknowswhat in the Smokey Mountains?
Nell Nicholson Ingram was raised in a cult—a polygamist cult—and married to a man old enough to die of the various things that start happening when you get old, five years after she married him, when she was fifteen.
She’s never cut her hair, worn makeup, or painted her toenails, but she can handle half a dozen handguns and rifles with efficiency.
And she does regularly, out of necessity.
Whatever her deceased husband’s faults, when she turned eighteen, he married Nell legally, so that when he passed, by law, all his property went to her, instead of back to the church of her upbringing.
Nell gained her independence, but with that independence came harassment by church men, who wanted her property for themselves, and her person back under their authority.
By themselves, guns might not have been enough to keep her out their clutches, but Nell isn’t a one trick pony . . . She has a connection to nature, initially thought to simply be an affinity for helping things grow, the church women said she had a green thumb, but soon after her husband died, Nell was attacked on her property.
It was dark, and she couldn’t see her attacker, but she fought, and in the fighting, she shed some of his blood . . . As his blood sank into the soil, her land woke up, whispering its secrets to Nell, and she knew that if she willed it, the land would claim the man trying to force himself on her, wanted his life as forfeit for attacking her . . . And so she gave it.
That was two years ago, and while the church continued to harass her, refusing to accept that Nell had left that part of her life behind, they’d been content to limit their harassment to the psychological, rather than the physical . . .
At least they had before she aided Jane Yellowrock in an investigation that led to a government raid of church property. Since then, things have escalated. They shot her dogs, leaving them for her to find on her front porch. Rotating shifts of church men have been watching her from a deer stand. And immediately after a visit from PsyLed agent Rick LaFleur, they shot up her home, causing what was probably thousands of dollars of property damage.
You: Rick LeFleur?!
Me: Yes. *flares nostrils*
You: I bloody hate Rick LaFleur.
Me: Me, TOO.
You: Why would I want to start a new series that heavily features Rick LaFleur, whom I HATE?
Me: B/c if you don’t, you won’t get to see the mess his life has become. *laughs maniacally*
It’s not a make-you-feel-sorry-for-him kind of mess, it’s a reap-what-you-sow kind of mess, and it. Is. GLORIOUS. *laughs maniacally some more*
I really, really wanted to give BLOOD OF THE EARTH 5.0 stars. After much internal debate, I settled on 4.5, b/c as much as I loved it—Nell and her new PsyLed team, her evolving, seriously kick-ass abilities, the revelations about her family, the blossoming relationship with her kid sister (who shares her affinities), and a dozen other aspects of this spinoff series, set in Jane Yellowrock’s world—there was too much repetition of information for me to ignore, especially in the first 20% of the story. The many, many times something about Nell’s past life was referenced in connection to her new life, or the third time the backslider Stubbins’ (or whoever) short-lived tenure as a blood meal for a vampire was described, I was over it. But then again, I was reading the ARC version, so maybe it got cleaned up before it went to press.
Either way, BLOOD OF THE EARTH by Faith Hunter is the best first installment of an urban fantasy series I’ve read in about a decade. Highly recommended.
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