Title: Valley Fever
Author: C. J. Bahr
Genre: Fantasy / Supernatural Suspense
This quick-paced novel recounts the adventures of Jill Cassidy—a geology student and assistant to Professor Mitchell—as she uncovers the existence of the Fae, immortal creatures entrusted with the care of the earth.
The story starts with southern California experiencing an earthquake which seems normal enough until Professor Mitchell calls to tell Jill that the quake wasn’t “real.” Before he can explain, though, the connection is cut off. She races to find him only to discover his lecture hall has been invaded by two elegant, graceful figures who look remarkably alike.
One kills the professor and attempts to eliminate her, too, while the other rescues her and holds the murderer at bay. Once his lookalike disappears, her new “friend” insists on guarding her, claiming that she’s in danger without explaining anything. He may be good-looking and impossibly strong, but Jill isn’t sure she can trust him, especially when he won’t answer her many questions.
But the Fae murderer has done more than turn her life upside down. He’s released the Kolgardi, an ancient foe that lives on souls and hides in darkness, and it’s slowly sweeping its way through parks, back alleys, side streets, and woods.
Meanwhile, Thomas Rainier is just trying to get a story and salvage his newspaper career. When he stumbles upon the scene of the murder, he’s determined to learn more, even if it means pursuing Jill and her “Sir Galahad,” facing the Kolgardi, and dealing with more dagger-happy Fae.
The story is full of intrigue, sensuously exploring the lusts of the Fae along with their political disagreements. The details are rich and the chemistry is compelling without being overly-detailed, with many moments that “fade to black.” However, there are times when a reader might feel lost, as the complexity of the Fae’s choices, past and present, can almost feel like jumping into a second book of a series.
Events unfold steadily in this well-paced book, building toward a climax that beautifully combines both the Kolgardi and Fae antagonists in an epic showdown against Jill, Thomas, and their Fae allies. But the action passages are sometimes hard to follow, as though the author is determined to keep up the tempo even if it means summarizing the events taking place.
Similarly, there are plot elements that fall by the wayside. Things are set up to suggest that a certain thought will be explored only for the book to move on without touching the topic again.
Jill is a delightful character, independent and stubborn while being sensitive, thoughtful, and caring. She doesn’t become a warrior overnight, and even at the end of the book, her strengths lie in a different direction, but she carries the story forward with her determination and devotion to the truth and those she calls her friends.
Readers who like fantasy stories rich in action and danger with just a hint of spice and romance will enjoy this novel. A fun ride from the very first page, it’s light and enjoyable without being “epic” or overly pretentious.
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