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Darkness Brutal by Rachel A. Marks
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Darkness Brutal (2015)

by Rachel A. Marks

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I would like to thank Skyscape & NetGalley for an e-ARC of this book to review. Though I received this e-book for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review.

Goodreads Teaser: "Aidan O'Linn's childhood ended the night he saw a demon kill his mother and mark his sister, Ava, with Darkness. Since then, every three years the demons have returned to try to claim her. Living in the gritty, forgotten corners of Los Angeles, Aidan has managed to protect his sister, but he knows that even his powers to fight demons and speak dead languages won't keep her safe for much longer.

In desperation, Aidan seeks out the help of Sid, the enigmatic leader of a group of teens who run LA Paranormal, an Internet reality show that fights demons and ghosts. In their company, Aidan believes he's finally found a haven for Ava. But when he meets Kara, a broken girl who can spin a hypnotic web of passionate energy, he awakens powers he didn't know he had - and unleashes a new era of war between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

With the fate of humanity in his hands, can Aidan keep the Darkness at bay and accept his brilliant, terrifying destiny?"

Aidan & Ava O'Linn are interesting characters, though we learn much more about Aidan than his younger sister Ava in this book. Having survived a particularly unpleasant childhood, which ended with the death of his mother when he was only nine, Aidan comes bearing a fair load of baggage. On top of all his confusion and guilt surrounding his feelings toward his mother are his intense feelings about his little sister. He essentially raised her, even before their mother's death. So when her powers begin to manifest and she doesn't try to hide them Aidan panics. And he's got good reason to do so, seeing as demons have been after her since her third birthday - and the night their mother died.

This all leads up to his accepting a place to stay and job with the rather eccentric Sid. Sid seems to collect kids with unusual talents, using them to run the LA Paranormal company; they investigate haunting so, etc. and then banish the ghosts. All on tape for their Internet show on YouTube. But the house is off the grid and heavily warded, so Aidan takes a chance. He struggles with stepping out of the shadows, not to mention his concerns over some of the seedier aspects of LA Paranormal's operation. But he does it without protest, all for Ava.

The other kids at Sid's place are Connor, Jax, Lester, Holly, Finger, and Kara. Of them all Kara is the one that both attracts and repels Aidan. With some of his other talents he can see people's history in a roundabout way. And Kara's breaks his heart, even while his attraction to her grows. Despite his increasing attraction to Kara he still finds himself drawn to Rebecca, a young girl he rescued from a gang rape, and ultimately from herself. There's a purity about her that draws him like a moth to a flame. Having Rebecca seek shelter at Sid's place seemed smart at the time, but now he's stuck between two girls he likes, just for different reasons.

Characters in this book are well conceived and crafted. Though Aidan is clearly the central star, Kara, Ava, and Sid are a strong second tier. And I've no doubt the others will come into greater play in the next book. The link between the growth of each character and the development of the plot is well done, with both plot and characters moving the story forward at a good clip, while never getting to wrapped up in one or the other for to long. And though this book has a fairly calm ending, it still remains a cliffhanger when all is said and done.

Given the plot, context, and sub-context it would help increase your understanding of this book if you have at least a basic grasp of the history of Christianity and Judaism. Yet if you go into this with little or no knowledge it still gives you enough of a foundation to grasp what's going on, just maybe not all the subtleties. And though the story is steeped in religion, don't let that turn you away. As a pagan I was in no way offended by this story, nor did I ever feel that I was being preached at. The lessons contained within are basic lessons of how we should all hope to be treated; nor are they shoved down your throat, but simply put out there for you to do with what you will.
  Isisunit | Jan 19, 2016 |
Though the biblical stuff was off-putting, I loved both the characters and the story. ( )
  LaPhenix | Dec 12, 2015 |
Award-winning writer Rachel A. Marks designs amazing illustrations in addition to being one hell of a writer. Talk about multi-talented! She calls Darkness Brutal, Book #1 in her new The Dark Cycle series, Supernatural meets Oliver Twist. I think she nailed it with that tagline. The only thing I would add is that this Oliver Twist-like character is a teen living in a world that’s even darker and more sinister than the one Charles Dickens gave his Oliver Twist. If you like dark fantasy novels then this one is going to thrill you. If you like novels about family and loyalty, featuring a reluctant hero then look no further. Boy have I got a fun read for you at htp://popcornreads.com/?p=8545. ( )
  PopcornReads | Jul 16, 2015 |
Marks has written a wonderfully fresh take YA and urban fantasy, two genres that are bogged down by tropes. I've read almost 100 urban fantasies, so it was really nice to read a book and be surprised again, and again, and again. Aidan's voice is perfectly teenaged and snarky, and he feels real; it was great to see a strong teenaged male lead. He's had an awfully rough life. His witch of a mother (literally) died when he was a kid, and he has spent the years since trying to look over his beloved little sister who is in foster care. Magical abilities run in the family. Aidan sees demons everywhere and dreads what might be coming for his sister Ava as her birthday nears.

I don't want to give too much away. Marks has a knack for writing characters who are manipulated by forces beyond their control, but who are not passive in the slightest. The female cast is very strong here. The end is fantastic and draw things together in a way I did not anticipate at all... and makes me even more eager to read the next book. ( )
  ladycato | Jul 11, 2015 |
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