No Sleep Till Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton
No Sleep Till Doomsday (2018), the third installment in Laurence MacNaughton’s DRU JASPER series, delivers all the excitement, action, romance and humor I expect from these books — plus, it brings in a new muscle-car who is an ancient rival of the speed-demon Hellbringer, and I’ve come to love Hellbringer.
Dru is a crystal sorceress in Denver, Colorado, who together with a group of allies is trying to stop the breaking of the seals on the Apocalypse Scroll and the resulting Doomsday. Dru is aided by her demonically possessed boyfriend Greyson, who drives Hellbringer; her friend Rane, who can turn herself into metal or stone; and her non-magical but knowledgeable store employee, Opal. She is sometimes aided and more often hindered by Salem, Rane’s arrogant, loner sorcerer boyfriend. Over the course of the series, Salem has shifted (mostly) from being an adversary to being an ally but he is an untrustworthy one, mostly because he distrusts Greyson, and he assumes that he is a better, smarter sorcerer than anyone around. His constant discounting of Dru’s ability often complicates the plot and makes me want to shake him, a measure of how engaging I find this series.
In No Sleep Till Doomsday, another crystal sorceress who calls herself Lucretia steals an amulet from Dru, while a giant man-bat grabs Salem and yanks a protective amulet off his neck as well. In a short period of time the gang works out that Lucretia, who is behind the wheel of Soulbreaker, another demonically possessed car, has a truly evil plan. Lucretia has recruited a group of protean sorcerers, who can shape-shift, to help her gather up various magical amulets she needs to usher in Doomsday. It turns out that Lucretia is one of the original Harbingers, the group who decided the world needed to end and have planned to bring that about since the 1970s.
The battle scenes with the protean sorcerers (or as Rane calls them, the “protein sorcerers”) are, to use a word I often don’t, epic. So are the chase scenes between Soulbreaker and Hellbringer, because for Hellbringer, this time it’s personal.
In each of these books, MacNaughton has created a location that feels like “Colorado Strange.” In It Happened One Doomsday, it was an odd and creepy house in the desert, with a real 1960s vibe, that was used by the Harbingers; in A Kiss Before Doomsday, it was the array of tunnels and underground compound carved into the mountains. In No Sleep Till Doomsday, MacNaughton gives us a 1960s-era ghost town, a small place in the hills where people walked away one day, leaving everything. Once again, if you know history (or lived through the 1960s) you have an inkling of why the town might have been abandoned, and the book plays fair with the readers, revealing the reasons in a timely and dramatic manner. Lucretia is revealed as a villain who has a justifiable grievance, even if destroying the world is not a proportional response. In fact, Lucretia might be the most sympathetic of the villains we’ve seen so far. And it’s revealed that her actions have driven the plot since the beginning of the series.
Everything I like about these books is done well here. I love Opal’s humor and the struggle Greyson and Dru face to have a relationship. I grind my teeth at Salem’s blind sense of superiority. I’ve even warmed up to Rane, who wasn’t a character I liked much in the first book. She’s grown on me, mainly because her loyalty to Dru is unswerving. And of course, the things that make this contemporary fantasy series stand out are well represented here. While crystals and minerals are a fantasy mainstay, Dru uses them in a different way, and I learn about a new-to-me mineral or semi-precious stone with each book. But it’s the speed-demon cars that hold my interest. I love Hellbringer, and I love its conflicts. It was especially fun to get still more of Hellbringer’s point of view in No Sleep Till Doomsday. If you enjoy contemporary fantasy with a dash of romance, lots of banter and plenty of chase scenes, I heartily recommend these.