fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Yvonne Navarro HighbornHighborn by Yvonne Navarro

Highborn begins with a vividly described scene of Hell. Astarte, a fallen angel, watches the daily round of horrors from her bloodstained tower, and decides she wants out. We then cut to Astarte, having escaped Hell and calling herself Brynna Malak, as she adjusts to life in modern-day Chicago. Brynna can understand any language she hears. She’s less adept at navigating other aspects of human life: how to feel empathy, how to pet a dog, and why you shouldn’t just wander away from the scene when you witness a murder. Yvonne Navarro does a terrific (and often funny) job of portraying a character who just doesn’t “get” social norms and has a lot of acclimating to do.

Brynna soon learns that someone is killing nephilim in the city. Nephilim are the children of angels and mortal women, and each is born for a specific, divine purpose. Killing them not only snuffs out their lives but also prevents them from fulfilling their cosmic destinies. The cops are stymied by this serial killer, but Brynna has special insights into the crime and finds herself assisting hunky detective Eran Redmond in his investigation. It should surprise no one that sparks fly between the two!

In addition to the central mystery, Brynna dispenses justice to the more run-of-the-mill bad guys in Chicago: bullies, thugs, wife-beaters, etc. These smaller fights add to Brynna’s character development, and also give Highborn the feel of a superhero tale.

Highborn is an exciting, butt-kicking story featuring a complex heroine who changes and grows as the novel progresses. It’s quite violent — there are at least two scenes that utterly grossed me out — but the violence level fits with the fallen-angel and vigilante-justice themes. Navarro’s prose is smooth and makes for a snag-free read.

I didn’t like the ending. It felt like a gut punch. I can see how it fits with the ideas and themes of the novel, but I’m torn between feeling cheated and wanting to commend Navarro for having the cojones to write it that way. Nevertheless, I plan to keep following Brynna’s journey as the Dark Redemption series continues.

Dark Redemption — (2010-2011) Publisher: EVERYONE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE. BRYNNA MALAK MIGHT BE THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE. Brynna is a fallen angel trying to earn redemption. She’s escaped from Hell in search of a new life on Earth, but Lucifer’s deadliest hunters are hot on her trail. Police Detective Eran Redmond is after her for a different reason: he needs Brynna to help him find a serial killer who is terrifying Chicago… and the trail leads them right to Hellspawned demons of the most dangerous kind. She’s also got a very human problem: dealing with a stubborn, attractive cop who makes her long for everything she knows she can’t have. Stayingalive long enough to earn a shot at Heaven will mean breaking some major rules in the mortal world, as she learns just how complicated and wonderful being human can be. With so much stacked against her, even Brynna has to wonder if she’s crazy. But she’s not giving in without a fight. Not a chance in Hell…

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  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.