Kensington, $15.00, ISBN 978-1-61773-509-7
Fantasy Romance, 2016
The Undoing is the second book in Shelly Laurenston’s Call of Crows series, and it follows The Unleashing (you can read the review of that one to get the background information on the series). It can stand alone, for now, but I have to warn you guys – the cast of characters is slowly expanding, and the plot carries over from one book to the next, so if you intend to start with this series, it’s still better to start with the first book.
The previous book is a bit rough around the edges for me, although it has its moments. The Undoing, however, has me laughing so hard that I cannot help but to be so charmed by it. If you know me, you’d understand that I’m a sucker for nerds as well as merciless crazy-hot guys. Now, combine those two and you will get the Protectors. They are the mortal champions of the Norse god Tyr. Tyr is the god of justice and wisdom as well as battle, so his Protectors are charged to defend the spirit of the law – hence most of them being activists, lawyers, and such – as well as knowledge – hence, the rest being scholars, professors, and librarians who are horrified at the idea of using laptops and reader devices to read and write. In other words, bookworm warriors, people! Socially awkward, introverted hot guys who will happily wring one’s neck for their true love or for justice. I am in love.
Oh, and Tyr’s favorite sacred animal is the owl, so the Protectors can do owl things – including turning their heads almost 360.
When the story opens, the Protectors gain possessions of some old and valuable books written in Russian. I’m supposed to believe that a network of scholars will not be able to find someone who can read and translate them properly, but okay, I’ll just go along with it because things seem fun, and I like fun things. The whole mission was touch and go for a moment, as the Crows showed up on a different mission in the very same location, but the books ended up safe and sound among the Protectors. Now, they just need to find a good translator.
Our heroine Jacinda “Jace” Berisha is with the Crows – the mortal champions of Skuld. Skuld selects women who were killed or died under very wrong circumstances for her Crows, so that they will be full of wrath and such. Our heroine was born in a cult, tortured by her cult leader who also happened to be her husband, and eventually killed by that man, Skuld raised her back to life once Jace agreed to be her Crow, and Jace managed to rip out a chunk of her murderer’s throat before she was taken off to meet the rest of the Crows. That was ages ago. Today, she is… well, you know how every anti-hero team tend to have one silent, crazy member who is also the most psychotic? That’s Jace. She is given by Skuld a “gift” of berserker rage – when she gets angry, everything dies, let’s just say.
The Crow higher-ups believe that Jace would blossom a bit more if she leaves the HQ more often… maybe they can transfer her to another Crow branch so that she can be their receptionist or something! The very idea sounds like a nightmare to Jace, who prefers to deal with as little noise and chatter as possible. Initially, when the Protector ambassador of sorts, Danski “Ski” Eriksen approached her with the job offer from the Protectors, she refused. The Protectors are a bunch of snobby, stuffy bookworms, after all. But now that she’s about to be sent to do something worse, Jace greedily takes Ski’s job offer.
Unexpectedly, Jace discovers that she has found her people among the Protectors. Oh, she will always be a Crow, but the Protectors are her kind of folks. Like them, she loves books, and in many ways she is as introverted as the typical Protector. Ski is the exception, which is why he often acts as the go-between for the Protectors: he’s charming, he can talk, and he can kill people just as amazingly. The others just kill people and then stand awkwardly at the sidelines in a party, wondering how they will ever muster the right things to say to members of the more outgoing Clans.
Meanwhile, the Crows plan a “welcome our new sister” party for the heroine of the previous book, and they invite everybody – including those from feuding Clans who would normally try to kill one another – while a villain they thought they’d disposed of may not be as out of the picture as they’d like to believe…
The Undoing is not a very action-packed story – for a long time, it is an ensemble comedy that thrives on violence, vulgarity, and over the top histrionics. But those things are what the author des best, and she does everything so well here. More insight into some of the Clans are given – the Protectors get considerable spotlight here along with the Crows, while the Ravens take a back seat for now – and the Protectors are such an adorable kind of folks. They are in many ways capable killers and enforcers, but they can’t be any further from the more typical Band of Brothers stereotypes, and that, people, is one tall glass of water as a result. Especially Bear – that fellow is just too adorable in his social awkwardness.
Jace and Ski are a great couple. The author gives them some space and room to explore their feelings instead of just drowning them in wacky like her other books, and as a result, I can see why those two would get along so well together. Ski understands and respects Jace’s need for her own space and some peace and quiet, while she appreciates the way he cheers her up and draws her out of her shell. These two would cheerly disembowel anyone in their way, but deep inside, they are just two cute kids who are in love as much as they are in lust together. It’s all so sweet.
The last few chapters serve up some good old-fashioned action scenes, but for the most part, this is one hilarious comedy of endearingly crazy, violent people who give good fun as well as catharsis. This is one book to read for those times when I feel the need to give the world a finger as well as when I need to just let my hair down. The Undoing does so many things right, it can only be right.