Author: J. D. Cunegan
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal
Notna brings readers a story of angels, demons, and a war for our planet with a touch of aliens and archeology in the mix. Jackson “Jack” Corbett and Cassandra Federov are both professors at Texas A&M who enjoy archeology, though thus far, they haven’t “hit it big” in terms of funding. Then a representative from the Smithsonian recruits them to find the legendary Gem of Notna, an alien weapon of immense power with a prophecy attached.
But Jack, Cassandra, and their allies aren’t the only ones searching for the gem. They are opposed by the current leader of the Underworld and his vampire rival, along with a handful of nasty monsters brought up from the Underworld to wreck havoc and stop the prophecy from coming to pass.
The narration is shared between all the main characters, encompassing the Primordial’s council, the Underworld, the planet where the gem was created, and even places and times in the villains’ younger days. Not part of a series, this story reads a bit like the Notna Omnibus, giving readers every tidbit about the plot—how characters met, when they became evil, and how their struggles with each other first began.
As a result of this wide focus, though, the story is challenging to follow. The first scene is from the “possible, not-too-distant future” yet it never materializes in the story as it moves forward, offering perhaps an alternate reality on what follows rather than a specific teaser of the action to come. And the constant moving is done without much of a transition besides a brief introductory line, so the timeline can be difficult to decipher.
Still, the story keeps things moving. By not dwelling on the details or description, one gets a sense of an eternal struggle with things always happening, fights always taking place. And the timeless quality allows the reader to experience first-hand exactly what happened, eliminating the need for exposition through summary or explanation.
The focus of the story is the battles, and though the author doesn’t seem to go out of the way to include every ceremony where blood and gore is involved, there are still plenty of them, allowing readers to experience just how harrowing and gruesome the battle for the planet is.
The cast is also pleasantly diverse, with over half the “heroes” being black or at least with dark skin, and the story goes almost out of its way to make the Chosen One not just another male cliche. Still, it’s definitely a fantasy for adults in terms of language and violence, a story one reads because of the plot and action more than for the characters or world-building.
Overall, this novel feels like Indiana Jones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any particular religious goals. It’s a gritty story of sacrifice and struggle with just a pinch of academia and history. Rich in graphic details, this tale of the eternal conflict between the Underworld and the Divine will appeal to fans of action, adventure, and contemporary fantasy.
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