Incarnate (The Portal Keepers, Book 1)

By A.C. Ruttan

Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

For an innocent man, she’ll go to her grave. Again.

Cia is serving her sentence in the Canadian Arctic, guarding one of the many portals that seal off Earth from Heaven and Hell. She doesn’t mind the cold. What she does mind? Someone’s bumping off other Incarnates, the dual-souled beings who hold the Apocalypse at bay. And she’s next on the list.

Worse, she learns the prime suspect is Arthur, her ex. Arthur is many things, but despite their history, he’s no murderer. Cia has only thirty days to find him and prove it before the Wrath is unleashed to mete out justice.

It’s no relief when he shows up in her truck’s headlights on the side of the ice road. He stirs turmoil between her volatile old soul and the younger one that keeps it in line. Worse, he shows all the signs of turning into a demon.

The closer they get to Yellowknife, the more rogue demons pour out of Hell, dragging with them a past she thought would never haunt her again. Another murder, and the elders prepare to summon the Wrath ahead of schedule. A move that will, literally, let all Hell break loose. Unless Cia makes a soul-tearing choice.

Goodreads Summary

Ten years ago, Cia and Arthur had been in love and married. Both were Incarnates, guardians born with two souls, one new and one old, and both had duties guarding portals, making sure no demons slipped through to earth. Then one day she found out his brother Henry was making deals with the devil, literally, and when she saw that he might escape justice she made the terrible decision to kill him herself. Arthur left her and for killing another Incarnate, Cia was banished to the frozen wasteland of Yellowknife.

Cia’s just received a new job from her boss Michael. The Elders believe Arthur has killed two Incarnates and a Ward and want him brought in. Their proof is the Tudor Rose burned into the palm of each of the victim – Arthur’s sign. They believe Cia is their best bet to find him, not only because of her past connection to him but because scrawled in blood on the wall of the last crime scene was the message, “Cia’s next.”

She barely has time to take a breath before Arthur finds her. He’s not the same man who left her though – she’s still attracted to him, but he’s given up a huge part of him and is becoming something dangerous. She knows he’s innocent, but time’s running out to figure out who the real killer is. Her attention is divided when her old soul, warrior Queen Boudicca is first taunted by her old nemesis Suetonius, then Cia sees him actually following them. Is he the killer and was it all an attempt to get to Cia/Boudicca? Arthur has been trying to get Cia to believe that Michael knows more about demons than he’s saying. Has he betrayed her?

I’m an utter nut for Tudor history, so it just didn’t take all that much for me to find the inclusion of the old souls from there here awesome. Without going into a huge amount of detail that would lead to spoilers, there’s Arthur of course, his brother Henry (the VIII), Mary (the Bloody Queen, Henry’s daughter) and Anne (Boleyn). With the exception of Arthur, they all had a little something that made me kind of laugh – for example, Anne had a lace tattoo around her lower neck. Mary, fittingly, was an Inquisitor. Arthur on the other hand, was just a bit of a bore, much like he ended up being recorded historically.

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story. It wasn’t because of the idea of the story or that it wasn’t explained well. I picked up on the background of the Incarnates and most of all, liked Cia and really got a feel for her surroundings. Ruttan did an amazing job throughout the book with the settings – I could easily picture every single one of them. Cia drove a big rig over the ice roads and I’d swear Ruttan’s either done it or handcuffed herself to someone who has while she wrote by the insane amount of detail she threw in the book.

My issue was that there was absolutely no prologue for Cia’s relationship with Arthur. She just gets called to Michael’s office, told she needs to hunt him down and she thinks about how in love they were…but for the length of the book, I never felt it. I just felt like I missed something with them, like I never knew why they loved each other before, so why should I believe they love each other still? Arthur just seemed as interesting as oatmeal, no matter how many times I was stirred out of my apathy for him to be reminded he had muscles.

If I had to get stuck with a second soul in me and my job was guarding a portal against demons, I don’t think I could ask for anyone better than warrior Queen Boudicca. Cia spends a lot of time struggling with integrating her new level-headed and quiet soul with Boudicca’s passionate, confrontational one. There are big chunks of text where Cia is caught in her memories and at times when they go on too long, they read like history lessons. Unfortunately, like any character you give multiple personalities to, at some point you lose track of which one is in charge and there were places when Boudicca took over for me. I liked Cia a lot and felt she got sort of short-changed. She was a great character and as weird as it sounds, one of the things I really liked about her was the way she loved the Arctic.

My Summary: There were so many things I liked and disliked it would take me an hour and another five or six paragraphs to list them (and probably a ton of spoilers). I’ll say though that I thought there were too many twists that didn’t make sense but were convenient to actually move the plot a certain way for the second book and the ending confirmed it. When I was enjoying the book best, it was when Ruttan was letting Cia (and Boudicca) out to kill demons, poking in the head of an archangel for clues about the real killer or just letting me white-knuckle the ride across the ice roads.

My Rating: C



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