** contains SPOILERS for ‘Devil’s Kiss’ **
From the BLURB:
After the death of her soulmate Kay by her very own sword, Billi SanGreal has thrown herself into the brutal regime of Templar duties with utter abandon. There is no room for feelings any more - her life is now about hunting down the Unholy.
But when Billi and another Knight Templar are caught at the heart of a savage werewolf attack, only Billi survives - except for a young girl at the scene who Billi unthinkingly drags away with her as they escape. But Vasalisa is no ordinary girl. She is an avatar with an uncontrollable power - and it's not only the werewolves who want her.
Billi has to flee to the frosty climes of Russia, with a human timebomb who, it seems, could destroy the world . . .
Sarwat Chadda had a BIG task ahead of him with his second book ‘Dark Goddess’.
I admit to going into the book with apprehensions. I loved ‘Devil’s Kiss’, and was absolutely blown away by Chadda’s sophisticated and horror-ific YA novel. I did wonder if he could catch lightening in a bottle twice. But the opening paragraph of 'Goddess' put my mind at ease...
The Rottweiler’s head lay in a bush, just off the snow-sprinkled path. One eye was gone, leaving a blood-encrusted socket. Its tongue hung out stupidly from a broken jaw. The body was a few metres further, its chest carved open so the ribs stuck out of the skin like a row of gruesome lollipops.Chills. My body is riddled with goose bumps when I read some of Chadda’s grisly and provocative sentences, and that opening paragraph had me convinced that Chadda’s brilliance was back for a second-round.
Billi has changed since the events of ‘Devil’s Kiss’. She’s a little bit harder, more serious and more accepting of her Templar fate. When we first met Billi she was railing against her destiny with the Knights, horrified by the ghosts and ghuls she faced and resentful of her duties to the Templar. In ‘Goddess’ Billi is a bad-ass, sword-wielding knight heavyweight. A lot of her renewed determination is linked to Kay’s death; her guilt and missing her best friend. In ‘Goddess’ it does feel like Billi is combustible and reaching a boiling point, and her changed personality is the new ticking time-bomb, replacing her and her father’s strained relationship that was in ‘Devil’s Kiss’.
Chadda leaves London and brings Billi to Russia, facing an old folkloric foe in Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is a witch-like character from Slavic folklore who is set to wreak havoc on the world. Billi and the Knights are also tasked with guarding a nine-year-old girl called Vasilisa who is thought to be an oracle like Kay was. Vasilisa is being hunted by Loony’s (werewolves) and it is up to the Templar to keep her safe at all costs.
The Baba Yaga storyline is horror perfection. Baba Yaga is a terrible and terrifying villain, an admirable follow-up to Michael’s avenging angel of ‘Devil’s Kiss’. Sarwat Chadda doesn’t hold anything back from his YA audience; he writes gory and gruesome heart-palpitating action with such finesse and an eye to literary detail that even when you’re scared witless you’re completely captivated by the story.
‘Dark Goddess’ also has a smattering of romance. The mysterious Tsarevich Ivan is introduced and Billi takes an instant dislike that soon turns to sparking chemistry. I kind of love the fact that Chadda’s concentration isn’t primarily on the romance – the horror and action are very much the focal point. The ‘Devil’s Kiss’ series is very gothic and horrific, and that’s the selling-point and the crux of the story. The romance is a great complement to the intense action, but it’s not crucial. And because the romance isn’t weighing down the action, what little sweetness Chadda offers seems all the more significant and profound for its scarcity.
I love Sarwat Chadda and his ‘Devil’s Kiss’ series. This is addictive horror-reading, beautifully written by one of the best and brightest of the YA scene.