(2010) Natasha Rhodes, Solaris, £7.99, pbk, 567pp, ISBN 978-1-906-73572-2
Circus of Sins is Natasha Rhodes’s third offering in the Kayla Steele series: the first two being Dante’s Girl (2007) and The Last Angel (2008). She has also written novelisations of blockbuster films namely Blade: Trinity (2004) and the first two Final Destination films (both 2006, the second film book was co-written with Nancy A. Collins). Her other novels includes Dead Reckoning (2005) which is also part of the Final Destinations spin-out series, Perchance to Dream (2006), again a spin off but from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. So you can see the type of sub-genre she frequents. Her other books are The King Boy (1991) and Hunter’s Heart (1993).
Circus of Sins begins when Kayla Steele, a trainee Vampire Hunter and one of the few survivors left of the Los Angeles branch, is hunting a vampire. Bitten by a werewolf, trying to stave off the change and mourning her dead lover are the least of her worries when she finds out that Harlequin the Master Vampire is plotting the end of the World by killing an Angel: a sin that will trigger the apocalypse. Kayla must now race to find that Angel, prevent its execution and save mankind.
Along the way Kayla befriends a handsome stranger called Nikki who agrees to help her find Harlequin and rescue the Angel. She also has help from a band of werewolves lead by a werewolf called Motor, his three sons Buck, Brad and Grids. As well as other wolves such as Mia, Mutt and a blind werewolf known as Magnus. Together they must face Harlequin, his ruthless band of werewolves including the notorious Harlem. They also come up against the remaining Hunters and make unexpected allies of sworn enemies.
The journey takes Kayla to the 'Circus Of Sins': an infamous 24-hour LA nightclub made of many levels and attracting mainly the wealthy. The deeper she delves into the Circus of Sins the more dark secrets she discovers about the club, so adding to her woes putting both the wolf pack and the World in danger as she finds out the truth behind Harlequin’s master plan. As well as finding the answer to who Nikki is and if he can be trusted?
This gritty novel is set amidst the Halloween celebration during a sweaty LA Autumn and mentions the Californian wildfires. Which gives the story a good realistic edge. The storyline itself is quite strong, well-focused and very griping to the point that in certain places the reader will find it hard to put the book down. Other positive points about the book include the way that the author sets each scene. Natasha Rhodes, undoubtedly drawing in her writing career experience to date, does this by creating a film-like atmosphere, which works very well t. On the downside, there are passges that are difficult to read, especially after the first couple of chapters. There is a bit of confusion in the writing (as the plot jumps around) and might put off a more casual reader sufficiently to put the book down. However stick with it as this is cleared up when the story really gets going.
Although it is part of a series Circus Of Sins works perfectly as a stand-alone book; the reader is given a strong insight into the characters' past, without padding or wavering from the storyline.
The characters themselves are more than two-dimensional, with Kayla Steele herself portrayed as a strong but very humanly flawed female fatal character. Readers will enjoy the mysterious portrayal of Nikki and the evil bad boy image of Harlem.
Although Circus of Sins is a mix of horror and fantasy, there is a very strong and unexpected aspect of science fiction within it. In short it can appeal to both those who enjoy Buffy and the True Blood as well as those who are fans of both the Alien and Predator series.
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