Dark Descendant: Urban Fantasy Jack Kirby Could Have Drawn

Cover of Jenna Black's novel Dark Descendant, which shows a dark-haired young woman with long straight hair and a serious expression pointing a gun in front of a backdrop of city skyscrapers at night.

I picked up Jenna Black's urban fantasy novel Dark Descendant at a Louisiana gas station that still sells paperbacks on a spin rack, reminding me of childhood trips on my 10-speed down the hill in Burleson, Texas, to look for books at the Stop-n-Go.

Dark Descendant is about Nikki Glass, a detective whose case takes her to the compound of a creepy cult outside D.C. on a night where snow and sleet make driving dangerous. This point is demonstrated when she strikes and kills her client, a resident of that compound.

That's bad for business but worse for her life. Turns out he was an immortal with powers and she is a descendant of the only humans who can render them mortal. When one dies the descendant inherits their powers and immortality.

So now she's got the powers of Artemis the Hunter and some immortals think she ran down their buddy on purpose. Rival immortals find out there's a new descendant of Artemis and deeply covet those hunting skills.

That's how the book starts and it's an engaging premise Black doesn't entirely pull off because the characters and dialogue aren't as sharp as the plot. Though it's urban fantasy I read the novel more as a superhero comic. There are two groups of people with distinct superpowers clashing with each other and Nikki's like Kitty Pryde arriving at the Xavier School of Mutants with her suitcase, bell bottoms and a wide-eyed expression. Except Wolverine wants her dead.

Nikki's too passive, which is excusable at first because she's thrown into such weird circumstances but not for an entire novel. At some point events need to start happening because your protagonist made them happen. There are some great fight scenes where she discovers the extent of her powers on the fly. One character with the powers of Eros makes unforgettable and disturbing threats about how he'll use them.

I liked the novel enough to be curious about the sequel but won't be jumping right into it. I need to finish reading entrants for the finals of the SPSFC.

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