BILLI SANGREAL is a Knight Templar and has thrown herself utterly into their brutal regime, shutting herself off from everyone and everything. But when Billi finds herself at the heart of a savage werewolf attack, she knows their target – a young girl – must be rescued at all costs. For this is no ordinary girl. Vasalisa is an avatar with an uncontrollable force within – and it’s not just the werewolves who want her. The Dark Goddess wants to sacrifice Vasalisa and use her powers to unleash unimaginable catastrophes and devastation. Can Billi protect Vasalisa from the ancient goddess – and at the same time stop her from destroying the world? (from Amazon.co.uk)
I wasn’t all that keen on Sarwat Chadda’s first book following Billi SanGreal and The Knights Templar. I didn’t fully understand the concept behind it that much or connect with any of the characters. However, the problems I had with Devil’s Kiss are fully rectified in Dark Goddess and this time I thoroughly enjoyed this action packed and exciting book from the first page.
When Billi rescues a nine-year-old girl from a werewolf attack, or The Polenitsy as they are in this book, she has no idea just how important Vasalisa is. When she’s took by the wolves back to Russia as a sacrifice to their Goddess, Baba Yaga, Billi and the Templars must follow, because if they fail then the whole of mankind will be wiped out.
I absolutely loved the myths and legends of Baba Yaga, Goddess of the earth. She’s quite possibly one of the scariest villains I’ve read about. She’s ancient, as old as the earth itself and despite the horror she was planning on unleashing I kind of got her. Baba Yaga IS the earth, what affects it- affects her and man has treated it badly. Having such a passionate cause, I found her completely believable, even able to sympathise with her on some level. I also really enjoyed the different take on werewolves. The Polenitsy are a tribe of female only wolves who serve Baba Yaga. Devoted and ferocious they are far from the werewolves struggling with their humanity we often read about in YA fiction. They don’t want to be human; in fact they despise them for what they have done to nature. I thought giving the wolves a cause and not just making them mindless killers was fantastic and gave the book a real depth.
I also really connected with Billi this time. In the last book I found her sulky and petulant, this time round she’s strong, loyal and compassionate and has really grown as a character. Billi knows her own mind, she’s a fierce warrior and isn’t swayed by the first good-looking guy she comes across…hurrah! While there’s a budding romance in the book, it’s very much a back-story. It’s slow and builds on trust. I respect and admired her far more for this. Billi became my heroine in this book, she seriously kicks ass and has an amazing outfit… I want that red coat! I still think it’s a mistake to age her 15. She’s too mature, nothing struck me at all that she would be this age and on the occasion it was mentioned, it kind of surprised me and didn’t seem right. Also, she’s supposed to be at school in London…wouldn’t there be more concern at her absences when she’s off fighting the unholy or at her extensive injuries? I think making her a couple of years older would have been more realistic. Nothing in the book would be changed and I’d accept her age easier. However, this doesn’t spoil the book in anyway and was more of an occasional annoyance when on the rare occasion Billi’s age was mentioned
We find out more about The Templars in this book too and what they’re about in the modern world. Looking back, Devil’s kiss acts like a scene setter - planting ideas, but The Dark Goddess was, for me, the real story. I think this could be read and enjoyed as a stand alone, however there are references to the first book and while I didn’t particularly love it, I’m still glad I read it first. I can appreciate Devil’s Kiss more now after reading this brilliant sequel.
The Dark Goddess is a fast paced, action packed, exciting thrill of a book entwined with fascinating myth and legend. The backdrop of rural Russia makes an atmospheric setting and the characters are complex and well developed. Sarwat Chadda writes the most breathtaking action sequences, which will have you glued to the pages while Baba Yaga’s fury at mankind will make you think a little on how we treat the earth and nature. This is a very successful sequel and I’d highly recommend it.
Published in the UK 1st July 2010
Thanks to the publishers for providing this review copy.