Fiction Reviews


Dark Heavens: Book Two Ė Red Phoenix

(2011) Kylie Chan, Harper Voyager, pbk, £7.99, 563pp, ISBN 978-0-00-734980-7

 

Here we go, book two of the Dark Heavens trilogy, and keeping up with the 'look' of the previous book Ė White Tiger and the title of this one, we get a red cover, showing London Bridge, exploding phoenix birds Ė what is the plural for phoenix anyway? And there is someone who looks a lot more confident in the old kung-fu stance than the novice who occupied a similar position on the cover of book one.

It is hard to avoid the spoilers here if you havenít read book one, so do not read this if you havenít read the previous in the series, but basically we are continuing the love story of former nanny Emma Donahue who is now engaged to John Chen, ace demon hunter and the Chinese god Xuan Wu, the Dark Lord of the North. That makes her a target, as well as placing Johnís daughter, Simone, also in danger, and with a particularly nasty breed of demons released just for the purpose of killing them they have no choice but to leave Hong Kong behind and head for Europe, while John has to stay in the background and recharge the celestial batteries after losing his powers, so it is left for Emma to multi-task on the heavenly plane and in the mortal world by looking after Simone, running businesses, and rebuilding an army to fight the demons.

Less is more or more is less and while we get some interesting new characters added into the mix Ė on the side of both good and evil, which are fantastical by nature they donít seem to have any real depth to them. Sure there are some interesting sub-plots that come to the boil or continue to simmer, but in keeping with some other trilogies there is a bad case of middle book-itis going on here, especially with the ending, but I guess the expectation is that if you have come this far, you will stick around for the last book in the trilogy, then the next trilogy (which has already been published elsewhere) and the one after that (which is in development).

We do not quite get the extras following the end of the narrative as in book one Ė no need for some primers about the mythology and further reading, this is book two after all and if you have come this far you donít need them, nor dare I suggest, the fourteen page glossary which does follow that seems a bit superfluous. Maybe the third book in the trilogy, Blue Dragon, will not have any added extras, but Iíd bet my house that the cover will be blue and there will be a dragon on it somewhere.

Ian Hunter


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