Soul Reborn, by Jean Murray
Crescent Moon Press, 2011
THE HUMAN REALM, HIS BATTLEFIELD.
Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.
DEADLY SECRETS BETTER LEFT UNEARTHED.
Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess’ undead army unleashing hell on earth. But Lilly has a secret-one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.
“Only the strongest love can unlock the souls of the Underworld.”
Asar races through the dark streets of New York City. Nearby, three undead revens pursue a curfew-breaking human with intent to feast on flesh. Asar intends to intercept their prey before their party gets started. His craving is for souls; the human they are hunting has a particularly sweet one, and he has no intention of letting such a meal go to waste on lowly cannibals. But when the cursed death-dealer of the Underworld turns a corner, he is surprised to find the revens decapitated. He recognizes the work as that of a skilled swordsman. A hunter. The desire to feed on the soul becomes greater with anticipation of a fight.
He is surprised then to find that the hunter is a woman. A very beautiful and feisty woman. Her every move and word entices him further. In the end, she retracts her blades from the superficial wounds they’ve cut into his chest. Asar allows her to flee into the dawn, catching one floating strand of gold hair she leaves behind. Shortly after, Asar’s brother suggests that he admires the woman, but Asar denies it. She’s only human, after all, and he’s a god. In truth, though, everything about the woman seems more than human. Hunger becomes intrigue and he wants to know more about her.
I, personally, would go so far as to say that Asar is smitten at first sight. When one considers that Asar is living without both his heart and soul, the fact that the man feels anything for her should tell him that something big revolves around her. He might even see it quicker than he does were he not so preoccupied with punishing Kepi, a sorry excuse for a goddess who literally stole his heart, soul, the physical key to the Underworld, and his son.
An aside…his son isn’t a kidnapped child. Asar’s family–him, his brother, and his son—plays a critically important role in the balance of power among both Pantheons of Egyptian gods. Asar has kept Bakari’s absence a secret from nearly everyone because the knowledge that he’s not around will have devastating consequences for the gods and humans alike. This is a testament to Asar’s character, considering once again that he doesn’t have a heart or a soul. He can’t do his job without them, but he clings to the man he used to be and that keeps him from being the animal he easily could have become.
The huntress, Lilith “Lilly” Carrington, is one of three daughters abandoned young by their mother. Five years ago, while on a South American dig, Lilly and her archeologist father uncovered a tomb with Egyptian hieroglyphs and artifacts. Not long after, an undead plague swept the face of the Earth, condemning mankind to live under strict daylight curfews or risk becoming infected. Lilly, her sister Kit, and a number of other women submit to a painful Egyptian spell to have black asps embedded in their backs. They become Nehebkau, an army of assassins to destroy the undead. Still the numbers of the reven continue to grow.
Asar comes to believe that Lilly’s youngest sister, Kendra, and her PhD in Egyptology, may be able to help find his stolen key to the Underworld. Lilly exchanges promises with Asar…her servitude in return for his word that no harm will come to her sisters. The cursed god does admire her strength and her love for her sisters. To show her that life will not be horrible, Asar takes Lilly to Aaru. There, she falls in love with her future master, and Asar unwitting awakes something within her that has been sleeping since her birth. When her power begins to manifest, the layers of the Kepi situation began to peel away, revealing to the gods…all of them…that they have far bigger problems than Asar being unable to do his job.
Soul Reborn is a story about honor and loyalty, about owning fault and accepting the consequences, and about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. Asar is a man who ignored wise counsel, and when Kepi betrayed him, he blamed her, blamed the humans that released her from her sarcophagus, and promised vengeance on everyone involved. He never stopped to consider his own fault in the situation. At the opposite extreme, Lilly blamed herself for the curse on her father which then spread to mankind. She puts herself in extreme danger in an attempt to atone, one reven at a time, for her curiosity. When Asar and Lilly come together to confront Kepi’s threat, they must both let go…he of anger to which he’s not truly entitled, and she of guilt that was never hers to carry.
I do have one complaint about the novel. When Asar does accept his responsibility, it comes in the form of an abrupt about-face. His trusted counsel says, “I told you so” and he accepts that as true. And just like that, he absolves Lilly of her role. I would have preferred Asar to wrestle with his conscience, because by this point in the story, he does have one. I would have liked the guilt and remorse to settle steadily upon on him until the weight became unbearable. However, the subsequent scenes were satisfying enough to smooth that wrinkle out for me.
I believe fans of Lynn Rush, or of Paranormal romance in general, will enjoy Soul Reborn. Two sequels are coming, and I’m very much looking forward to Asar and Lilly’s next adventure.