Servant: (The Awakening, Acceptance, Kindred) The Series

One of the bonuses and negatives of being an “ooh, shiny penny,” sort of book buyer is that I invariably end up with more books than I know what to do with.  When I bought my first Kindle, the situation ended up getting worse (well, glass half full, really).  I tend to forget what on earth I have, and while the plus side is that I generally get distracted enough that what I’m loading on the front end is new stuff and I don’t buy doubles, the minus side is that I’m not reading the older goodies that I’d fallen in love with before and I miss some real treasures.

 

I was having a blah day a couple of weeks ago and was paging through my new Kindle and all of its transferred-file glory and saw a couple of obviously-grouped books by L.L. Foster, that I knew was pen name of Lori Foster.  I’d recently had the pleasure of winning an awesome swag bag of her SBC Fighter series, a t-shirt and book bag among other goodies and had a friendly, quick e-mail chat, something that I love when an author takes the time to do.  So she was on my mind, I had the books and a stretch of time and I was in the mood for something new.  I read straight through the two that I had and went to Amazon to see if there were additional books in the series and was thrilled to see this was a closed set of three. I immediately picked up the final book, reading the entire set in one marathon and decided that the best way to review them all was the same way.  So I apologize in advance for the unwieldy page break you’ll end up with here; to minimize it, I’m going to do my very brief summary of each book in order, then add my thoughts about the series as a whole at the end.  Obviously, since they’ll all be together, there’ll be spoilers as I move from book to book.

 

 

 

Servant: The Awakening

 

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: October 27, 2007

Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

ISBN 9780425218747

ASIN B000W916A2

 

Gaby Cody has always has always felt the calling.  Preceded by nearly debilitating pain, she’s filled with a knowing, a higher guidance and the additional physical strength and speed to chase down the stuff of nightmares.  She’s been sent by God to hunt and kill the demons who would hurt innocents and prey on the weak.  Along the way, well, she has a little predilection for meting out street justice that doesn’t come from her job as a paladin but satisfies her personal need to clean up society – violently.  She never really follows the law, has no friends and likes it that way.

 

In The Awakening, Gaby keeps being pulled to an abandoned hospital that reeks of evil, but the demon she knows is there keeps slipping from her grasp.  She also traces a hint of something evil to a cancer ward and thinks the two are related; she ends up in an uneasy partnership with Detective Luther Cross, whom she met while cracking some heads outside a bar the first night she was drawn out to the abandoned hospital.  Luther is fascinated by Gaby’s complete innocence to everything beyond killing and torture and finds himself attracted to her, all the while questioning whether she’s involved in the mysterious disappearances of the terminal cancer patients.

 

Gaby’s landlord Mort, prostitute Bliss and Luther’s partner Ann are also introduced in this book.

 

My Rating: B

 

Servant: The Acceptance

 

Publisher: Jove

Publication Date: August 26, 2008

Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

ISBN 9780515145328

ASIN B0018QSO9E

 

Still reeling from Mort’s “death,” Gaby’s moved into a dirtbag motel with a gang of hookers, serving as their muscle and pounding the crap out of anyone who dares to treat them badly. She’s cut off all ties to Luther, but all it takes is one careless comment at the police station about a psycho with a knife terrorizing johns that leads him right to her doorstep months later.  As much as everyone thinks they couldn’t be more mismatched, he can’t forget her.

 

While busy with her usual slice-and-dice job on the local dirtbags, Gaby finds herself again answering the call; someone’s targeting prostitutes now, but they keep slipping out of Gaby’s reach and none of the living victims can give a decent description.  It’s a childlike male or a female, maybe both, or the kidnapper/killer switches identities?  When the killer sees Gaby and Luther in action saving Bliss after a bungled kidnapping though, he decides that they’ll be his final kill in a bizarre torture den. 

My Rating: C+

Servant: The Kindred

 

Publisher: Jove

Distributed via Penguin Publishing

Publication Date: August 25, 2009

ASIN B002DW92ZW

 

Gaby has settled into a mostly uneasy position as Luther’s live-in girlfriend.  She’s finding many of what she considered her protective barriers failing: she’s suddenly noticing the cold and being hungry more than once every few days.  She’s also found that her concession to Luther to at least try not to maim as many people as possible has translated into an abundance of energy that’s only burned off by furious bouts of sex, something neither of them seem to mind.

 

Disturbing their exhaustive new exploration discovery of each other is Gaby’s most gruesome calling as a paladin yet.  Her first find is a body drained of blood, but the killer quickly escalates into cannibalism.  Gaby picks up a scent – quite literally – and traces it to a tattoo parlor, and the game of cat and mouse begins.  There really isn’t a lot of question of who in this whodunit, it’s a question of why and what’s their connection to Gaby.  From the onset, she knows she has one and it drives her nuts not to know what it is; the baddie knows of the connection too, although they figure out what it is sooner.

 

An important, related secondary story also develops at the same time.  Gaby is drawn to a playground instinctively, where she finds a girl who tells her of a gang of drug dealers who burned down her house, killing her family.  Gaby exacts her own brand of violent justice and ends up putting a number of additional players into the final showdown.

My Rating: B+

 

Now some of my thoughts about the series:

 

This read very much like an urban fantasy, of course without the technical aspect of it being told in the first person (it’s third).  Gaby is a great UF heroine: a total loner, no family, a child lost in the foster care system who ends up being something of a freak.  She never leaves home without a weapon, she operates on a moral code of her own….I could go on and on.  Yet she’s also unique in her steadfast belief that she’s doing God’s work.  You don’t see a Christian element all that often.  I liked Gaby a lot; she was one crabby bitch, but she was loyal under all that prickliness. 

 

Luther was a good foil for Gaby, but I often wondered why he didn’t just give her a boot in the butt.  I think maybe he was just bemused by her?  They were an odd pairing and I never really saw how he could honestly do his job as a cop knowing what Gaby was up to sometimes.  He was also dogged in his pursuit of her, which earned him brownie points with me.  He saw how wounded she was and was willing to put in the time to show her things and let her make up her own mind about him.

 

I thought Gaby’s transition from The Awakening to The Acceptance was a little jarring.  Granted, she was living with prostitutes, but she’d never even been kissed before she asked Luther to give her one and she had absolutely no idea that sex between a caring couple was any different than that between a hooker and a john.  Her wardrobe was jeans, a dark t-shirt and flip-flops.  Period.  Now she was decked out like a hooker, knew the lingo and the details and was jaded as hell.  She’d been freaked out by her first orgasm and now she was ready to have sex with Luther.  It was just a little too much all at once.

 

The language was also an issue.  Not the swearing.  I have a worse potty mouth.  Don’t tell my mom.  No, I had dictionary.com open all the time and for half the words, I kept waiting for the result to come back as a video of a suspicious, scowling Gary Coleman asking, “What’choo talkin’ bout, Willis?”  I’m not sure why such difficult words were used, but they really didn’t need to be.  The story was awesome as it was.

 

Now that I’ve whined, I can go onto the good stuff.  I really just enjoyed the series as a whole: the concept, the characters, each book’s theme and villain and the overall arc of Luther and Gaby’s relationship.  Each book was filled with enough of Gaby’s role as a paladin to keep that edge of the story fresh, but it was also mingled with a lot of pieces of Gaby meting out justice to everyday evil or rescuing innocents.   It was always easy to see that Gaby was admirable, in spite of the violence she used.  Luther was always there too, enough of a reminder to Gaby that she couldn’t just go over the edge and that there was someone who cared about her in spite of herself.

 

I completely appreciated that this was a closed set of three books, although it could have been four or whatever; while I keep reading long-running series’ too, I think of my books like candy sometimes.  One isn’t quite enough, a whole bag is too much, but a few is just right.  I want closure in a series and this provided it.  Don’t worry, Luther and Gaby’s story has an ending.  It’s not a finite, “and then they died,” sort of thing, but it’s just enough.

 

If you haven’t read the series, and I know it’s an older one, I do recommend it.  It’s not terribly long and it’s available on Kindle (the last book is only available digitally).

My total rating for the series as a whole:

My Rating: B+

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