Title: Blood Of The Earth
Series: Soulwood #1
Author: Faith Hunter
Length: 358 pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.
When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.
Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.
Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…
EXCERPT: Off the Grid
By Faith Hunter
This story takes place just before Broken Soul. In it, you’ll meet Nell, who will be getting her own series! The first book, BLOOD OF THE EARTH will be published in August 2016.
Excerpt Part 8/2 SHORT Slippery Words
Beast reached up and grabbed a root, swinging me out over the cliff. “Holy crap,” I grunted. The ground was way, way down there. I let her have us. Jumping down cliffs was a Puma concolor thing. The steeper and more impossible, the better. I was just glad my chicken and dumplings had digested. I didn’t want to lose that delicious meal when I landed, broke my legs, and threw up all over the place. But Beast wasn’t planning on any of that.
A tiny rock stuck out about twenty-five feet down. She pushed off with my free hand, accelerating the momentum of our swing, and let go of the root. I/we landed with the left toes of my boot on the rock and pushed off. The rock gave way, tumbling straight down to the vamp who had baited Eli. He caught the rock just as I/we landed in a crouch at his feet, perfectly balanced on my/our toes and fingertips.
I looked up and growled at the vamp. He took a quick step back, dropping the rock. I/we hacked in challenge. He stabilized his balance and nodded slightly at me/us, one of the regal nods that old vamps, especially old royalty who had been turned, used to acknowledge one another, or sometimes gave to someone they thought their equal. I had a feeling that someday this vamp and I might tussle and I’d hurt him. Just enough to let him know he shouldn’t have dissed the Enforcer of the MOC of New Orleans. Not even if he was a prince of vamps. Maybe he’d bleed a bit. But for now we had a vamp to rescue. And a bunch of kids too.
I gave him a regal nod back and pressed the button on my mic, a signal that would be relayed to Alex, who, unbeknownst to the vamps, would be calling the local LEOs (currently at a standoff on the blockaded road) in on an emergency raid, up through the secret entrance at the Philemon family farm. No way was I rescuing a suckhead and leaving women and children in the hands of cultists who would consider marrying off a twelve-year-old girl. And who had a “punishment house” for disobedient women and girls. No way.
Electric lights lit the compound grounds. The buildings were all painted a blinding white that threw back the security lights and created darker shadows. Path borders were neatly marked with rounded river rocks. The smells of many people and many dogs were strong on the night air. I oriented myself and waited. Four of our vamps had orders to neutralize the dogs and guards on the grounds, and then take down the armed guards keeping out the LEOs. There would be no killed humans to give the LEOs reason to charge vamps with a crime; instead the orders were to deliver a heavy-handed thump on the head to make the humans and canines woozy and then more zip strips to keep both dogs and humans out of the way. A little duct tape to keep them quiet, if needed. But no DBs—dead bodies. None.
The vamps, like my Beast, could spot the dogs by smell alone. More important, we could smell the humans. And vamp blood. It hung thick on the air. The vampires vamped-out and slid into the shadows.
I heard thumps and a growl close by, mostly hidden by raucous music from a building on the far side of the compound. It sounded like a bluegrass bland, with banjos and guitars and drums. Playing a rollicking . . . hymn. “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” men’s voices rolling into the night along with the scent of sweat and testosterone. They were in the church, and they smelled and sounded as though they were celebrating. Maybe they were. They had the state of Tennessee’s finest stymied at the front gate.
Following our plan, Chessy and another human and the vampire prince tore off, chasing the smell of Heyda’s blood. A third human followed, covering them from the rear with a nasty-looking fully automatic weapon that bore a strong resemblance to an M4A1 carbine, a semiautomatic rifle that fired a 5.56-millimeter NATO round. U.S. military issue. It would chew up anything it hit. Instant hamburger. I so didn’t want it to be used. If a human died on this raid, Leo and Ming would do all they could to protect the vamps, but the humans could possibly be hung out to dry—which meant that I might spend a long time in jail.
Once the guards were taken care of, Eli took the humans and vamps with the most recent military, boots-on-the-ground experience, and divided them into two groups. Eli’s group vanished into the shadows of the ammo building while the other group stood guard. When exploding ammo was no longer a threat, Eli would make sure there was no footage of tonight’s raid for the cops to find. Eli was good.
The rest of us—those with little or no military experience—headed for the nursery. The door was locked from the inside, but the two vamps with me took the door down. It wasn’t quiet, but it wasn’t as loud as I might have expected either. Vamp reflexes were so fast that when they busted in the door, they caught it before it hit the wall behind. Between that and the loud music, no one heard us except an older woman who was reading the Bible by the light of a flashlight just inside the door. She looked up with her mouth in an O of surprise. The vamp nearest grabbed the human up by the scruff of the neck and set her down gently beside me. While I secured the human and shoved a sock into her mouth to keep her quiet, the vamp disabled an alarm button under the desk by the most simple and efficient method. She broke it with her fist. I liked her style.
Together, we checked on the children, hoping they were all safe and asleep and that there were no more adults who might give a warning. Unfortunately two of the children had been beaten recently. Their scents told us they were bruised and had cried themselves to sleep. The scents also told us who had done the beating—the nurse. Her knuckles still showed the damage. The vamp who had disabled the alarm made sure that she didn’t get a chance to wash her hands and maybe rinse away trace evidence. She knocked the nurse out with a swift and well-delivered left jab. “Nice,” I said.
“Yeah. Bet she’d be tasty.”
“I bet she would,” I said mildly.
The vamp studied her face, and I had to wonder if the human nurse would get a visit one night from a vampire vigilante. Satisfied that the kids were bruised but okay, and that the older woman was the only guard, I left the nursery in the care of our humans and took my two vamps to raid the punishment house. The men were still singing, and anger had begun to heat my blood.
The punishment house was a small, nondescript building of white siding, post-and-beam construction, with thick walls. No windows. It looked like a nicely kept storage building. But I could smell the pain and fear inside it. So could the vamps. The female vamp who had busted the alarm had attached herself to me, and she took down this door the same way she had the nursery door—a swift kick—though this door took three kicks, and they weren’t quiet. When the door splintered open, we were met with the business end of a shotgun. Which my personal vamp took away in a move that was faster than I could follow in the shadows. It was a single, fluid move of kick, grab the barrel, whip up the gunstock to hit the guard in the jaw, and catch both guard and gun before they hit the floor. It was pretty. It was the last pretty thing I saw in the punishment house. There were four beds in a single room, a bathroom running along the back wall. No privacy curtains. Two women were shackled on the beds, and by the time I found light, they were crying and whimpering.
The vamp looked at them and cursed under her breath. Still moving fast, she broke the wrist cuffs with her bare hands and gathered the women up in the sheets and blankets from the beds. Drawing on her vamp strength, she pulled them close to her on the edge of one bed, murmuring endearments as she gave off a vamp compulsion, the energies cold and icy on my skin. I almost told her to stop, until I realized she was exuding calm, a gentle relaxing vibe that encouraged the women to accept help. I had never seen vamp compulsion powers being used for something good, not like this, and my respect for the vamp went up another notch. She needed a nickname, something better than “the female vamp with a great left fist.”
I stood to the side, weapon ready, watching the darkness outside and the vamp inside, until the women prisoners were sleepy and content, their heads lolling on the vamp’s shoulders. Gently she laid them down and stood, looking up at me, her hands patting the women into deeper sleep. Softly she said, “I recognize them. This is why Heyda let herself be taken. These are her grandchildren, Berta and Wilhelmina. Berta is in her twenties. Willie is in her forties. They’ve been . . . abused.”
I knew what she meant. I had known by the smells from the moment the door had slammed open and all the scents hit my nose. They had been beaten by several people while secured to the beds and unable to defend themselves. They had then been taught a different kind of lesson by a man. I didn’t realize the extent of my own anger—mine and Beast’s—until I spoke to the two vamps under my command. My voice was a deeper register than my normal human voice. “I smell the stink of sexual predators who hide behind religion. What say we find the man in charge?”
“His blood will be yummy,” the woman said. And she vamped-out. Fast.
“Not to kill,” I amended, to the vamp, who I’d nicknamed Yummy. “But let’s scare the bejesus outta him.”
“He won’t have any Jesus in him,” Yummy said around her fangs, “but scared blood is the best kind.”
For once I didn’t disagree.
Let me begin this review by first admittiing that I am sadly very late to the Soulwood/Jane Yellowrock party. I only just discovered this book and its corresponding series due to having received the fifth book in said series from NetGalley.
Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing for the neurosis that has hence ensued.
Nell, her relationship to Soulwood, and her history with the Clouds Of God church, stand as more than enough reasons for readers seeking a wonderful read to run out and grab the first book in Faith Hunter's Soulwood series.
But but when you add in the were-cats, human trafficking plot twists, Warren Jeff's like cult practices, and the formation of a new unit in the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security.
Unit 18, to be exact.
Tailor-made to handle those not quite human things that go bump in the night.
Those things in this case being a rogue pack of newly made Welsh gwyllgi. A type of were-hound. With similarities to the Dire Wolf. With very suspect ties to both the God's Cloud church and missing girls.
And Nell, by extension.
What you have is a very very enjoyable read. That is very easy to pick up, and oh so hard to put down.
Nell's "salt of the earth" disposition. Coupled with the story of her struggle for freedom from the tyranny and abuses of the religion into which she was born. And her journey of self acceptance and autonomy. Because of and due to her "gifts".
And the "found families" that result. Will warm readers hearts. While still managing to provide nonstop thrills, chills, and WTF moments.
Faith Hunter's Junkyard Cats novella series is brand new, with book one available only in Audible at this time.
Faith's Jane Yellowrock series is a dark urban fantasy. Jane is a full blooded Cherokee skinwalker and hunter of rogue-vampires in a world of weres, witches, vampires, and other supernats.
The Soulwood series is a dark-urban fantasy / paranormal police procedural /para-thriller series featuring Nell Nicholson Ingram, an earth magic user and Special gent of PsyLED.
Her Rogue Mage novels—Bloodring, Seraphs, Host, and the RPG Rogue Mage—feature Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage in a post-apocalyptic alternate reality.
Faith writes full-time, tries to keep house, and is a workaholic. She gave up cooking for lent one year and the oven hasn’t been turned on since. Okay – that’s a joke. She does still make cold cereal and sandwiches. Occasionally, she remembers to turn on Roomba (that she named Duma$$ because it fell down the stairs once.)
Faith researches in great detail, and tries most everything her characters do. Research led to her life’s passions – jewelry making, orchids, bones, travel, white-water kayaking, and writing.
Jewelry-making was the occupation of two of her characters: Thorn St. Croix, the Rogue Mage, and the main character of BloodStone, written by her pen name, Gwen Hunter. She fell in love with the art form. Faith makes, wears, and sometimes gives away her jewelry as promo items to fans and as prizes in contests. See her FaceBook Fan Page at http://www.facebook.com/official.fait... for pics. She works with stones, pearls, crystal, and glass, wire wrapping larger, undrilled, focal stones. Labradorite, Amazonite, apatite, aquamarine, and prehnite are her favorite stones.
Faith loves orchids. Her favorite time of year is when several are blooming. Pictures can be seen at her FaceBook page. And yes, she collects bones and skulls. Many of her orchid pics are juxtaposed with bones and skulls —a fox, cat, dog, cow skull, goat, and deer skull, (that is, unfortunately, falling apart) and the jawbone of an ass. She just received a boar skull, and the skull of a mountain lion (legally purchased from a US tannery) killed in the wild.
She and her husband RV, traveling to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.
And that leads Faith to kayaking – her very favorite sport. Faith discovered whitewater paddling when she was researching her (Gwen Hunter) mystery book, Rapid Descent. She took a lesson and—after a bout of panic attacks from fear of drowning—discovered she loved the sport.
Faith is one of the founders and a participant at the now defunct and archived www.MagicalWords.net, an online writing forum geared to helping writers. And she is a voracious reader.
Under other pen names, notably, Gwen Hunter, she writes action adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Gwen, she is a winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for Fresh Talent in 1995 in the UK, and won a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in 2008. As Faith, her books have been on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists, been nominated for various awards and won an Audie Award with Khristine Hvam, among other awards. Under all her pen names, she has more than 40 books, anthologies, and complications in print in 30 countries.
For more, including a list of her books, see www.faithhunter.net , www.gwenhunter.com , and www.magicalwords.net. To keep up with her daily, join her fan pages at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/official.fait
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