Author: Deborah Coates
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: March 2013
Hardcover: 304 Pages
Death stalks the haunted, windswept prairie in this chilling sequel to Wide Open
Now that she’s solved her sister’s murder, Hallie Michaels has left the army and isn’t sure what to do next. Her relationship with deputy Boyd Davies is tentative, there’s still distance between her and her father, and she needs a job. The good news is, she hasn’t seen a ghost in weeks.
All that changes when she gets a call asking her to help an elderly neighbor who is being stalked by black dogs, creatures from the underworld that are harbingers of death. When a black dog appears, Hallie learns, a reaper is sure to follow. And if the dark visions she’s suddenly receiving are any indication, it looks like the reaper is now following her.
Meanwhile, strange events herald the arrival of ghosts from Boyd’s past, ghosts the young deputy isn’t ready to face. Refusing Hallie’s help, Boyd takes off to deal with the problem on his own, only to find that he’s facing something much larger and more frightening than he’d imagined.
Stalked by a reaper and plagued by dark visions, Hallie finds she must face her fears and travel into Death’s own realm to save those she most loves.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Wide Open series
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): eBook (KOBO)
Why did I read this book: I enjoyed the first novel (with reservations) and since I was in the mood for some contemporary Fantasy, I decided to finally read the sequel.
Harbingers of death, an encounter with ghosts from the past and dark visions of her own death are in store for protagonist Hallie Michaels in this second instalment of Deborah Coates’ Contemporary (Rural?) Fantasy series.
Hallie is still recovering from the events in Wide Open and wondering what to do with her life now that she has left the army. Her relationship with her father is still difficult and she needs a job, presto. Even if it means accepting that job offer that will send her away and put a stop to her budding romance with deputy Boyd Davies.
Then she is asked to help an elderly neighbour who is being stalked by black dogs, which turn out to be harbingers of death and invisible to most people. Hallie soon finds out that the supernatural is still following her wherever she goes, that playing with dark magic has unexpected repercussions and that her own death is not exactly in the past, much as she avoids to think about it.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series Wide Open, especially the portrayal of its main character but had significant problems with it, namely the irritating dialogue and its incomplete sentences and the familiarity of the story. I am so glad I gave the series another shot for Deep Down is a much superior book and the things that frustrated me in the first book are all but gone.
First of all, I must comment on the intricacies of the plot: it partly takes up from the events in the previous book to build up on the idea that magic – especially the type of magic wielded then – always has consequences. The story, connecting the first book and then adding new threads to it, shows a conscious effort to have a continued, interwoven narrative which I really appreciate. Not only because it makes things more interesting but because it allows for the past to take hold and for actions to have consequences.
Death is a big theme here. Not only because Hallie sees ghosts as a result of having been brought to life when she died in the war but also as an actual entity. Harbingers, Reapers, Death itself are all present in the narrative in unexpected ways. Suffice it to say, I like the idea of Death presented here and the way that the plot plays with mythology. The latter is especially true when it comes to the ending and its reversal of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth with Hallie needing to do some rescuing deep down in the underworld. I am a sucker for these types of stories. Even the fact that ending felt a bit rushed doesn’t detract from that enjoyment.
The most remarkable thing about the series remains its protagonist Hallie. She is pretty freaking awesome. I love how resolute and capable she is and in here we are shown a Hallie that seems more patient, less willing to rush into things. Another big difference between this book and the previous one is the much welcomed way that Hallie had to deal with her own death and with her own memories of that moment. Those were dark, strong and I think much needed, given the severity of what had happened to her. That this now connects directly with her encounters with Mr Death is all the more exciting. I am expecting this to play a big part in the series finale.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hallie’s tentative relationship with Boyd. I love the two of them together because theirs is a negotiated romance, of give-and-take, of setting up boundaries and respect first of all. I freaking love of all of that with my romance, thank you very much.
Needless to say, I was impressed with Deep Down and now can’t wait for the next book in the series.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
Reading Next: The Vigilante Poets of of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
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