The black sheep daughter of a Las Vegas casino fortune, twenty-four year old Joanna Archer is merely tolerated by her wealthy father. Never his favourite (unlike the beautiful, dutiful and younger Olivia), Joanna was brutally raped and left for dead when she was sixteen. After nursing her back to health, Jo and Olivia’s mother abandoned them, something Xavier Archer blamed Jo for.
When Xavier learns that Jo is not his genetic daughter he summons the sisters and tells them that Jo is cut off – he’ll give her stipend, to protect the family name and for appearances’ sake, but everything is now Olivia’s.
Jo doesn’t really care – she’s far more interested in her quest to clear scum off the streets of Vegas. But her skill at the combat art Krav Maga, initially learned in the aftermath of her attack and now honed daily, may be used to greater effect.
For, in a stunning sequence of events, Jo learns that she is truly her mother’s daughter – she is one of the Zodiac, a force for light who must battle against her dark opposite. And more than that Jo may be the potential saviour for a side that has been beset by bad luck and disaster – the result of a pairing of dark and light, and with the potential to go either way, Jo may be the mythic Kairos.
Tagged “The First Sign of the Zodiac”, this is an interesting debut in what is, presumably, a twelve-part series. For a start, I can’t remember the last time I encountered a universe where smell was a key sense. Though there is some slowing of the plot for universe building, this wasn’t too distracting, and there were some really nice touches – particularly the relationship between the sisters, and the doomed resumption of Jo’s relationship with high-school-sweetheart-turned-cop Ben.
I did find the resolution of the betrayal-from-within sub-plot a little predicable from some way back and, given that I wasn’t looking to uncover the traitor, this was disappointing. There were strong Buffyverse elements that I appreciated but which made the book less fresh than it might otherwise have been, and I found the journey through the desert of dead lights a little unclear. I’ll probably look at book two, A Taste of Night, if it crosses my path, but I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to track it down. - Alex