Thursday, June 06, 2013

Review: Trail of Dead by Melissa F. Olson

Title: Trail of Dead
Author: Melissa F. Olson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Scarlett Bernard #2

Trade paperback, 310 pages

Publication: June 4, 2013 by 47North

Source: I received a review copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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As a null, Scarlett Bernard possesses a rare ability to counteract the supernatural by instantly neutralizing spells and magical forces. For years she has used her gift to scrub crime scenes of any magical traces, helping the powerful paranormal communities of Los Angeles stay hidden. But after LAPD detective Jesse Cruz discovered Scarlett’s secret, he made a bargain with her: solve a particularly grisly murder case, and he would stay silent about the city’s unearthly underworld.

Now two dead witches are found a few days before Christmas, and Scarlett is once again strong-armed into assisting the investigation. She soon finds a connection between the murders and her own former mentor, Olivia, a null who mysteriously turned into a vampire and who harbors her own sinister agenda. Now Scarlett must revisit her painful past to find Olivia—unless the blood-drenched present claims her life first.

Scarlett and company are all back in TRAIL OF DEAD, the sequel to last year’s exciting urban fantasy debut DEAD SPOTS. The story picks up a few months after Scarlett helped LAPD detective Jesse Cruz with a homicide case relating to the old world (vampires, werewolves and witches).  Jesse never wanted to get mixed up in the old world, but his new case requires him to jump back into the world he longs to leave behind and the only person that can help is Scarlett. Scarlett is a null, meaning she has a rare ability that enables her to cancel out spells (witches can’t cast spells) and magic (vampires & weres revert back to human) in her vicinity. Someone is murdering witches and innocent people in LA and all signs are pointing to Scarlett’s old mentor Olivia. It’s up to Jesse and Scarlett to find out who is working with Olivia before another person ends up dead.

TRAIL OF DEAD dives more into the old world history and the background of Olivia and Scarlett’s relationship.  Scarlett and readers both learn the interworking of all three big heads like why there are certain cities run by vampires, witches or weres and little secrets that even Dashiell, Kristin and Will (three big head leaders in LA) don’t share with anyone outside their group.  Scarlett in my opinion hasn’t exactly grown since the last book, she is still plagued by a lot of self-doubt, blaming herself for her parents’ death and in this book; putting everyone she cares about in danger.  Scarlett may constantly be putting herself down but she is always selfless when it comes to people she cares about. I just hope she gets over this hurdle in the next book, and stop feeling bad about what Jesse think and stop blaming herself for things that aren’t in her control. Since the foundation for the book was already set in DEAD SPOTS, Olson did a great job strengthening and creating very realistic-unique characters that I found myself connecting to each and every one of them (ex. I was saddened when a secondary character died).

The love triangle is still present but from reading the book you know who Scarlett would choose… no question about it. I’m not a fan of love triangle, and oddly it didn’t bother me in the first book but it does now. Eli seems to really care for Scarlett but she questions his feeling for her because she doesn’t know if he likes her for her or her ability which helps to calm his inner wolf. Then we have detective Jesse, Jesse likes Scarlett as well and the two actually tried to have a relationship at the end of DEAD SPOTS but Jesse couldn’t get over what Scarlett did for a living. At the beginning of TRAIL OF DEAD Jesse has a girlfriend but at the same time still has feelings for Scarlett. What bothered me was that Scarlett unconsciously made up her mind on which person she wants to be with but still bounces back between both guys. One minute she seems to be into Eli, Jesse, Eli and then Jesse again. I didn’t like how she strung --- along, not really thinking about his feelings. Also Jesse had a girl but he acted like he was still single, the way he acted towards Scarlett made it seem like she was his girlfriend not the other girl. I’m not feeling Jesse, and I wish Scarlett gives Eli a real chance…or at least make an official decision on which guys she wants. 

My review might seem like I didn’t like the book but that isn’t the case. I thought this was an excellent follow-up to the Scarlett Bernard series. The mystery-plot kept me engaged and guessing the entire time. The characters and world building were strong, thoroughly researched and perfectly executed.  Olson writing didn’t suffer the usual sophomore slump that other new authors encounter, but instead showed a well written and balanced flow between chapters.  The chapters alternate between Scarlett first person POV and Jesse third person POV. Olson also did an interesting technique (that was also used in the first book) in which the prologue is told in third person but a past event that ties the entire story together which I found really cleaver.

I highly recommend this series; it isn’t like the usual UF out there. Olson brings an entirely different spin on her vampires, weres and witches and a completely unique heroine that isn’t like anyone I’ve ever read before. I’ve compared Scarlett to Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti (her null abilities) but DEAD SPOTS and TRAIL OF DEAD showed me that Scarlett is totally different and what she can do now is barely the tip of the ice berg of what she could do. The first book was about the vampires, this book was about the witches, so I’m guessing the third book will be about the werewolves. I can’t wait to see what Olson has in store for Scarlett and the gang, and am looking forward to learning more about Nulls and the old world. BRING ON BOOK 3!!! 


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