The Protectors - Book 1
By Nancy Northcott
Publisher: Hachette Book Group (digital)
Grand Central Forever Yours (print)
Release Date: November 6, 2012 (digital)
December 18, 2012 (print)
Deep in the heart of Georgia, a woman fights against insurmountable odds. As Shire Reeve (sheriff) of the southeastern United States, Valeria Banning is charged with the protection of Mundanes (non-magical humans) in her district yet on this steamy summer night, it's Valeria who needs protection and there's no one in sight to come to her aid. Stuffed into the trunk of a car carrying her deeper into the murky swamp, her Mage powers are blocked by an amulet the ghouls have hung around her neck but she manages to shake it off and send out one last, frantic, magical plea for help, praying with everything in her that someone, somewhere will hear.
Rather than ease readers into her story, Nancy Northcott plunges them straight into the heart of the action from the first page of this extraordinary tale. I was right there with Valeria as she struggles against the evil ghouls determined to drain her of her magic then either kill her or force her to mate to create more ghouls. With Northcott's vivid descriptions and superb writing, I could feel the sheen of perspiration from the dense Georgia humidity, smell the pungent aroma of the dense vegetation of the surrounding swamp, feel the pulse-pounding desperation as Valeria fights for her life, the soul-wrenching sadness as she realizes she has no hope of winning and the stunned realization that her rescue has come at the hands of her enemy - the man whose position as Shire Reeve she now holds - the man who ignites an unwanted flame of desire in her - the traitor she has taken a solemn oath to kill.
A fugitive for the past six years, Griffin Dare has been tried in absentia, found guilty and condemned to death for joining forces with ghouls and murdering Mages. It's a long fall from grace for the once honorable Shire Reeve and those in the Mage community haven't forgotten the deep pain of his betrayal. But is Griffin really guilty or is he the fall guy for a much more powerful traitor? He may have spent the past six years living in hiding but he hasn't lost his honor or his dedication to helping others. After he realizes the woman he has rescued is the current Shire Reeve, he knows this is his opportunity to show her the evidence he has gathered and appeal to her sense of fairness and justice to work with him in uncovering the real traitor conspiring with ghouls to overtake the world. But first, he has to convince her not to kill him.
Being orphaned in her teens as the result of a ghoul attack has made Valeria more devoted to the Mages who cared for her following her parents' deaths, more determined in her battle against the ghouls, more resolute in her pursuit of justice. Convincing her to open her mind to the facts; that it's possible Griff isn't the bad guy and those she's trusted may be lying to all of them won't be an easy feat to accomplish. But if Griff and his team have any hope of preventing the ghouls from perpetrating a massive attack against humanity, then bringing her over to their side is their only hope.
I don't read a lot of fantasy and probably wouldn't have picked up this book had I not personally known the author. And you know what? I would have missed one of the best books I've read this year. The ancient magic and struggle between good and evil seamlessly woven into present day Georgia is fascinating and easy to believe. In fact, the magic (which is drawn from the earth's elements) is such an integral part of the characters that I easily accepted it as just one more facet of who they are; the world in which the story is told so expertly constructed that I had no difficulty imagining it. In fact, it won't surprise me one bit if I start taking second looks at passersby the next time I'm in Georgia! But while the world building, fast paced action and suspense are superb, it's the characters that drive this story and what fabulous characters they are. Realistically drawn, complex and conflicted, they are characters that have found their way into my heart. From Griff and Valeria to the Mages who work undercover to help Griffin identify the real traitor to the residents of Wayfarer, Georgia who only know Griff as the man who looks after the homeless and is always available to lend a helping hand, these are people I've come to know and care about...and, hopefully, will have an opportunity to revisit in future books in this series.
The next book, Guardian, is scheduled for release in May, 2013 and I've already started counting the days!
If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed story with ancient magic, pulse-pounding suspense and a deeply satisfying romance then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Renegade by Nancy Northcott.