by Marjorie M. Liu
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Cathy Green
Ace Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441017300
Date: 30 June 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
At the end of The Iron Hunt, Maxine Kiss had found her grandfather; travelled through time twice, meeting the grandmother she never knew; gotten lost and found her way out of the Labyrinth, picking up an ancient Warden's weapon along the way; and killed and avatar. If anything, there's even more action and it is at an even more breakneck speed in Darkness Calls, the sequel to The Iron Hunt.
At the start of the book, Maxine is still in Seattle, living with ex-priest Grant Cooperon at his shelter, The Coop, with its motley assortment of zombies and other not-entirely-human residents. While there are certainly enough zombies and other demonic entities for Maxine to hunt in the Seattle area, it is unusual for a Hunter to stay in one place, for both reasons of personal safety and because there are plenty of demons everywhere that need killing. However, Maxine is in love with Grant and has formed a family with him and the teenaged Byron and Crazy Mary and some of the other residents. The dangers of living in one place and being known to be living in one place quickly become apparent, as Maxine is nearly shot and killed by an assassin during the one time of day she is vulnerable, the moment between night and day when her "boys" haven't quite gone back to being her living tattoos.
Complicating matters further, the priest of the order Grant left comes to him and demands that he come to Shanghai to help with a murder case. Supposedly another priest friend of Grant's, Father Lawrence, has become possessed and killed three nuns. Grant feels he has no choice but to go to China. Maxine feels she has no choice but to protect Grant. Of course, with living demon tattoos that leap off your skin when the sun sets, travel by plane isn't an option. And if things weren't complicated enough, another Avatar known as the Erl King has shown up to wreak havoc.
When Maxine arrives in China, she learns that the Catholic Church, and more specifically, Grant's former Order was behind her assassination attempt. Soon she and Grant and Father Lawrence and a psychic girl named Killy that they pick up in Shanghai are on the run from the Church and the Erl King.
They receive help from some surprising quarters. The Zombie Queen has ordered her minions to help Maxine because zombies are at the bottom of the demonic pecking order and have no desire to see the Earth under control of powerful demonic forces who would crush the zombies as easily as they would humans. Maxine learns from her grandfather, Jack, that the Order was actually created by the Avatars to protect the Wardens, but became perverted.
Eventually, Maxine will have to confront the Erl King and his altered human minions, but to do so she will have to embrace and access the darker, more primitive version of herself that she saw and absorbed in the Labyrinth, and Grant will also learn more of his true nature and powers. Things become more and more desperate as Maxine and her allies race across time and the planet in their effort to stop the Erl King.
Liu has done an excellent job of developing and expanding the mythos she created in The Iron Hunt. The way Maxine learns more of her origins and those of the Avatars is organic to the story, and does not interfere with or slow down the fast-paced story. I look forward to reading the further adventures of Maxine Kiss. While Darkness Calls can be read without first having read The Iron Hunt, the story will make much more sense if The Iron Hunt is read first and I recommend that the reader do so.