The Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson has been one of my favorite with its great characters, amazing story line, and kick ass action. And this next book, Cheat the Grave, is certainly no different. But I can say that this one is definitely a game changer in the series.
Las Vegas socialite and otherwordly avenger Joanna Archer gave up everything when she embraced mortality—abandoning her powers and altering her destiny to save a child . . . and a city. Now her former allies are her enemies—and her enemies have nothing to fear.
Yet still she is bound to a prophecy that condemns her to roam a nightmare landscape that ordinary humans cannot see and dare not enter. And a beast is on her trail—an insane killer blinded by bloodlust, who’s determined to rip much more from Joanna than merely her now-fragile life. Survival is no longer an option in this dark realm where good and evil have blurred into confusing shades of gray—unless she can gather together an army of onetime foes and destroy everything she once believed in.
In this fifth installment, we continue about right where we left off. Jo is a mortal and trying to fit into a world in which she isn’t a superhero. Dealing with the hurt and betrayal that she feels over Warren so callously kicking her out of the troop and the fact that the other members just went along with it. She tries to find strength in her mortality, and her personal growth through every book, including this one, has been pretty amazing. In a almost complete reversal from the first book, she’s went from being outwardly strong and inwardly broken to becoming apparently weak on the outside and strong on the inside. She’s seems to have really found a sense of self that she was maybe missing in the the first couple books and that in itself is a profound accomplishment. However, I must admit, I’m kind of missing the kick ass archer of the zodiac troop. The one who, if she wasn’t the strongest superhero, certainly acted with enough bravado that made up for it. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the character that Joanna is developing into, I just like the revenge driven superhero more than I do this new emotionally healthy Jo.
As for the other characters, Warren is really starting to annoy me a bit. Although I think that may be by design. He stopped really being the good guy. Instead he’s coming to light as this manipulative and single-minded man that would do anything for things to go his way. Hunter is also changing. In the last book we find out that he betrayed Jo pretty badly, but somethings come to the forefront that make a lot of difference, and has Jo deciding to give him another chance. The changelings from the comic book shop are sadly missing from this book. I loved it every time Jo visited them in the past. They added a lot to the series and I can only hope that they have future appearances.
The plot was great as always. Multiple things were happening and all of them came together at the end. It made for a dynamic story and had me on the edge of my seat at multiple points. There were also somethings that I most certainly didn’t see coming and I loved being completely surprised. This includes a lot of previously held beliefs that are put into question. Things that were apparently set in stone are not as solid any more, and that makes me feel like nothing is.
Overall, Cheat the Grave by Vicki Pettersson transitions us from the world of light and dark to a new one of shadows. And while I may miss the old Joanna, I’ve got a feeling that she’s going to become something better in the end. Urban fantasy lovers should be happy to know that this is another solid book in the zodiac series. I know I can’t wait to see what happens next.