The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson

I put the top five books I wanted to read in my suitcase when I went on vacation and it seems like I made good choices.  The writing in all the books was at a certain level of goodness – I don't have complaints that with any of them (Wolf Who Rules, Taste of Night, Beyond Varallan, Dead Girls Dance, and The Devil's Right Hand (which I'm still reading)). Just an observation. So all my reviews for these books are not going to be ranty in that regard. Though I did say I was a bit disappointed in the plot of Wolf Who Rules. Plot is different.

So the Zodiac series is about superheroes amongst us. In every city there are 12 people representing the 12 characters in the Western Zodiac (Sagittarius, Taurus, Libra and so on) on the side of Light, and 12 on the side of Dark. In book 1 Joanna Archer finds out that she belongs to the Las Vegas Zodiac troop. In book 2 she knows more about this new world, but has a lot more to grasp. There are a lot of rules involved here, for example:

1) These people are all born at midnight on the day of their star sign

2) Power is passed down generationally on the mother's side, and only one person can occupy a slot in the Zodiac.

3) There are three life stages, the first two are human and the third happens on the eve of their 25th birthday when they become superhuman and able to smell emotions and each others unique scents (so there is a lot of chemical scent changing happening and plastic surgery to hide identities).

4) Everyone gets a special sign on their bodies, a glyph, which glow when their enemies are near.

So some of these rules require suspension of disbelief. For me the most questionable was the comic book angle. In the Zodiac series there are people who psychically receive what's going with the battle of Light vs. Dark and write comic books of what's going on (and their promoting of the story creates belief in humans which gives the signs their power), Light can't read the comic books of the Dark and vice versa, and that this goes on in every major city with a population large enough for this. I thought about this for a while and decided if you can't see it as a graphic novel in prose-form there may be problems for you and this series.The comic book store was a little odd, but I think including it did make me associate the book with being a written graphic novel (Frank Miller's graphic novels come to mind). And I also think that the whole Zodiac system is centered around "belief" – I started to notice it was a strong force in the story, after all the leader of the Dark Zodiac, the Tulpa, was created out of thin air from the belief of a human who spent 15 years thinking him into existence.. wonder what this means? Hmm.

When I reviewed The Scent of Shadows, the first book in the Zodiac series, I said that this is a really angsty, tear you apart story. Mostly because there was a lot of characters watching people they loved die and not being able to stop it and a brutal rape is recounted. Book 2 had this to a much lesser extent. There is still angst though, and the deaths and rape are mentioned a few more times (I wasn't a fan of this aspect of the story. The rape. Though it's an integral part of the plot and Joanna's motivation). In my review of book 1 I mentioned having to put the book down to process the emotions. The main character, Joanna has issues – she's still very much ruled by vengence and what happened to her in the past, and in this book you see the frustration that the troop has with her. Her issues stop her from thinking things through and from being a team player. I felt that sometimes she was just unlikeable – particularly when she interacted with her troop and had an attitude. Like her treatment of Chandra (I thought these two were over this by the end of book 1, but on it goes), or her yelling at Tekla. Is this an illustration of Joanna's Dark side?

After reading this book I'm still not sure where the story is going to go. It's so complicated and everyone has their own hidden agendas. I'm sure that there are more things we don't know yet as a reader about the world too. Also the books are dark, and the heroine isn't untouched by that. I need to digest and process what I read in these first two before I can continue onward with the story. Which may be a while – I'm sure when book 3 comes out or what it will be called.

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