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Illicit: A Novel of the Sazi
Luna Lake #2
by Cathy Clamp
Tor, $17.99 TPB, 303pp
Published: November 2016

This is urban fantasy set in the world of the Sazi.  While this author has been writing in the Sazi world since 2006, this is the second book of a new trilogy with different protagonists. See the link below for a review of the first book, “Forbidden” and a background of this world.

At the end of the first book, Claire and Alex were going on a search for Alex’s missing younger sister, somewhere in the Klondike in northern Canada.  At the beginning of this story, Rachel, the owl-shifter and Omega of Luna Lake, is starting a new life – one free of the degradation and abuse of the town’s leaders and founders.  While still the Omega, the townspeople are beginning to see her in a new light and her status is improving.  But she is still determined to leave the town behind and go to college.  Unfortunately, just as she’s preparing to leave, the whole town goes on lock-down at the order of the Council.  Luna Lake has just been chosen as the site for peacetalks.

In Serbia there are two bear-shifter families in dispute over land and the Council has decided to intervene and try to reconcile the two sides.  Luna Lake was chosen both for its remote location and for its status as a sanctuary for all shifters.  Once the families are at Luna Lake, the talks break down.  The Council agrees to let a representative of each family compete to decide the fate of the land in dispute.  The families agree to let their weakest member, their Omega, be the representative.  The Kasun family choose a young woman named Larissa and the Petrovics choose their younger daughter, Anica.  The two young women really epitomize the character of their respective families.  Larissa is duplicitous and Anica is naïve.  Many of the townspeople end up involved with the two families and their preparations to compete on a course through the woods.

One huge complication is the appearance of a high-ranking Councilman, Ahmad, who also happens to be a snake.  Part of the back story before this trilogy was a nasty conflict where evil snakes were deliberately kidnapping humans and trying to ‘turn’ them. Most of the townsfolk were relocated to Luna Lake in the aftermath and have a lot of personal memories of that time.  It makes for a volatile atmosphere where everyone is waiting for a snake attack while the real attack on the peacetalks comes from an unexpected source.

Rachel is in the limelight for this story as she encounters a Wolven agent, sent to Luna Lake to protect one of the bear families, whom she knew as a child before she was abducted.  She’d been unaware he and his family were shifters and he was unaware that she was a victim of the snake attacks.  When he unloads a boatload of guilt on her for ‘abandoning’ her mother and family, she finds a new reservoir of personal strength to reject his assumptions.  She also discovers other unknown powers…powers that an Omega shouldn’t have. So when the Council decides to intervene in the competition, it’s Rachel they select as their Omega representative with the condition that should she win the race, it would be the Council’s prerogative to decide the fate of the disputed land rather than either of the bear families. Rachel would win her freedom finally – and be able to leave Luna Lake and return to college.  However, that is feeling a bit bitter-sweet to her because of her growing attachment to her childhood friend, Dalvin.

The challenge race is the main climax of the story and it’s pretty exciting with a lot of elements coming together.  But, as with the first book, I felt the author was very focused on adding the second climax – sex.  Most of the story involved the growing passion between Rachel and Dalvin and ending with the requisite bedroom scene.  And, since that wasn’t enough to wrap up loose ends, she threw in a third one:  Rachel, Anica and the Wolven travel to Serbia to break-up another snake pit of kidnapped children and Rachel has a chance to really show off her new power.

Overall, it was entertaining and if you’re looking for that romance angle, it’s there as well.  Fortunately, it’s only one sex scene – or unfortunately, if that’s what you’re really after.  Problems:  the story tended to rocket rather rapidly between scenes, the race ended with a victor but there was absolutely nothing in the story to tell us how the land dispute was resolved; and…neither the reader nor Alex and Claire find his little sister.  I also felt that the scene in Serbia at the snakes’ camp felt tacked on and unconnected to the rest of the story. 

The author does tend to pepper the story with small unexplained mysteries that do a decent job of engaging the reader’s interest.  Some come with explanations that further expand the Sazi world and the reader’s understanding of it.  Some are still dangling out there.  And, as with the last book, I can’t figure out the meaning of the title. 

As I said with the first book, it ain’t my cup ‘o tea but I can see that most of the elements should prove satisfying to the reader looking for paranormal romance.  I think I can recommend this to them.  Watch for my last review to wrap up this trilogy with “Denied.”    ~~  Catherine Book

For other books by Cathy Clamp click here

For other books in the series click here

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