Here comes Jayné, you know she’s sporting a chain. Same hair revolution, same build evolution… whatever that means. Um, how about… mirror image see no damage, see no evil at all. Those lyrics sound like they could be somewhat apropos, right? Well, in any case, let’s call upon angels and ministers of grace to preserve us with Vicious Grace, by M.L.N. Hanover.
When you’re staring evil in the eye, don’t forget to watch your back . . .
For the first time in forever, Jayné Heller’s life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them.
At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it’s straining to be free. Jayné is primed to take on whatever’s about to be let loose.
Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along—taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul. . .
The first book of The Black Sun’s Daughter introduced Jayné Heller to the world of magic and riders. The second book mostly just spun its wheels, ending with the status quo the same as in the beginning. But now, with the third book, the time has come to shake things up again. Vicious Grace forces Jayné to confront the dark and terrible aspects of her new life as a rider-hunter, and as a result it’s the best one yet.
A classic part of the hero’s journey is the protagonist finally stepping out of their mentor’s shadow. Typically, this involves the mentor either dying or turning out to have been secretly evil. Well, Eric Heller’s already dead, so that only leaves one option. Previous book have already hinted that, despite Jayné’s idolization of Eric, he was actually very morally ambiguous in his deeds: plotting an assassination, cutting deals with riders, and having an affair. Now, with the revelation that Eric mind-controlled and raped Kim as part of his plan to uncover the location of the Beast Rahab so he could make a likely-sinister bargain with it, Jayné is finally forced to see just how ruthless and sociopathic her uncle really was. It’s her first step out of his footprints and towards forging her own path.
And hey, speaking of Rahab, it makes for the most spectacular antagonist yet. Coin and Carrefour were both alien beings of unspeakable, unfathomable evil; but because they spent the whole of their stories possessing human bodies and pretending to be human, we didn’t really get the whole impact of their otherness. Not so with Rahab, who is 100% eldritch abomination and begins turning the hospital above its tomb into something straight out of Silent Hill once it starts to break free.
Finally, the ending gives the long-simmering subplot about Jayné’s peculiarities a kick in the pants. After her fight with Rahab, she’s at last begun to suspect what all of us playing along at home figured out when we saw the series was titled The Black Sun’s Daughter: that Jayné’s occasional outbursts of preternatural ability are the result of a rider. Hopefully that means next story will have them start investigating Jayné’s past and uncovering some delicious backstory.
Featuring dark twists, shocking revelations, an intense climax, and accelerating plot development, Vicious Grace stands a cut above the previous books in the series. My local library unfortunately does not have the next book in the series available for me to request; but based on the quality of this one, I have no qualms at all over purchasing a copy.
Final Rating: 4/5