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*Novel generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley
For more information please visit Maria Zannini's website.
Something is killing off immortals, one by one.
Taelen Jessit is an alien emissary on a mission sanctioned by the U.S. government to search for ancient gods. His hunt leads him to a dig headed by archaeologist Rachel Cruz. When his military entourage forces Rachel's team out of the cave they were exploring, a flash flood hits the riverbed and threatens to tear them through the ravine.
In the aftermath of the flood, Taelen witnesses the incredible healing of Rachel's broken ankle and believes his gods have blessed her. He is inexplicably drawn to her, and she to him.
What Taelen doesn't know is that Rachel is Nephilim—a descendant of the gods his people worship—masquerading as a human to find the god-killer and destroy it. Rachel needs help to bring down the tech that is manipulating the Earth's magnetosphere and frying her people alive. She's given Taelen her heart, but can she trust him with her secret?
True Believers by Maria Zannini is an unexpectedly engrossing novel focusing on the currently popular Nephilim sub genre. That alone was a huge part of my reading this book, but the science fiction elements sounded interesting as well. With non-stop action and a steamy romance, this novel truly delivers on every front.
I admit that in the beginning though I was a little leery. It was hard for me to get into the novel due to the fact that we are abruptly introduced to Rachel and her Nephilim heritage. Quite a bit of lore is immediately dumped onto the reader before they can even decide if they like the character, and this was a bit off putting. However, Zannini developed a highly complicated belief structure surrounding the Nephilim lore. From their history as god-like beings, revered and worshiped until finally being hunted by humans to the Altruian belief structure which still worships them and is actively seeking them out. The Alturian society and belief structure itself is likewise well developed, creating an interesting backdrop for the alien visitors and the ensuing war that comes.
The action of the novel sort of takes over initially, propelling us towards a point where we finally come to understand the characters. The action continues throughout the novel, however, and we are catapulted from one situation into the next allowing for a quick pace driving the reader on. The point of view shifts help to keep the pace and the action flowing taking us from one character's situation into anothers. It also helps us to get into the characters' minds, a helpful little tool for Zannini's exquisite world building within the novel. With two different cultures to learn about, this ability to peek into the characters' history and psyche is priceless and helps us to relate to the them more deeply. But, not only are we given insight into the humanoid races, we are catapulted into the AI of a computer known as Bubba, a computer who holds to the key to the all characters salvation. Truly this was an interesting twist, yet the author did a wonderful job creating a digital world that the reader could understand and enjoy. Not to mention bringing life to a somewhat inanimate object.
While Bubba may be interesting on his own, it is the main character Rachel that we come to focus on. As an immortal she initially comes off distant and a little cold towards those around her. Though she surrounds herself with humans she seems to cut herself off from them preferring to keep at a distance, and yet she does the same with her Nephilim father Gilgamesh. This makes her somewhat of a lonely character, however, we later come to find that she cares quite deeply about those around her and that there is a reason she keeps herself at a distance. She seems to really thaw after meeting Jessit however, and it wasn't until then that I truly opened to her as her emotions and thoughts deepened, fleshing her out. She struggles at this point to keep her secret concealed, but the task is too great. It was interesting to see her back away from the idea of being considered a god by the Alturians, something Gilgamesh relishes, but especially hurtful is being seen as a god by Jessit, someone she wishes to see her as an equal for her worth not because of what she is. However, from this her individuality becomes more present as does her inner strength. As her secret becomes common knowledge, her protection of those around her grows until a point is reached where she willingly sacrifices herself for those she loves. Not the easiest thing to do, giving up ones mortality, when she have never before had to fear dying.
However, it was Jessit that really stole the show for me. At first introduction, he is heroic, jumping into a flash flood to save Rachel with no thought of himself. He saves her multiple times through the beginning of the novel at great physical cost to himself. He is charismatic and charming with the right amount of arrogance, giving him a wonderful sex appeal to both the reader and to Rachel. The romance between the two is simmering and delicious throughout the novel with touching intimate interludes and well built drama. But, the suspense about his future is what drew me in. As children Alturians are tested to see if they can see 'glory', the essence surround Nephilim. It seems to be a trait carried by descendants of Anu, one of the gods they worship. Jessit, not wanting to be inducted into the Priesthood and castrated, lies and instead becomes a soldier, a profession he excels at. But, it comes to attention of the priest Kalya, a vile and sadistic incarnation of a religious zealot, and he petitions to have Jessit removed from the military and given into the priesthood's care. He is subsequently relieved of command, making him impotent through the final battle and to add insult to injury his manhood is threatened. I can honestly say that I have never been concerned about the well being of a characters bits and pieces before! This was quite an interesting twist and the suspense was masterfully provoked.
This novel is definitely a must read for anyone who is interested in a new take on the Nephilim lore, as well as anyone who loves a wonderfully developed chemistry between characters. With action galore, as well as well timed suspense, this novel with have you hooked and gasping for more. I can only hope that Zannini will revisit these characters as there is so much potential left for them- a closer look the Alturian world and society, as well as the fate of Earth and it's inhabitants and more of Jeesit and Rachel. So much there is left to explore and I will definitely be waiting and hoping for their encore performance! Truly this is an up and coming author not to be missed.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Scars
Advisory: Strong sexual content