Book Review – Sons of Darkness by Gail Z. Martin

Night Vigil #1
Publisher: Sol Publishing
Pages: 227
Characters: Travis, Brent
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

We are the Night Vigil.

The run-down convenience store, the all-night diner, the last-ditch shelter, or seedy motel, the redneck bar and the emergency room, and all the other places open on the graveyard shift—they’re Hell’s hunting grounds, full of easy marks and desperate souls, prey for evil things out there in the dark.

We keep the Vigil, looking for the ones who can still be saved, the ones who aren’t too far gone. We’re the misfits and the muck-ups, unwanted by Heaven or Hell, given one last chance to atone for all the mistakes and missed chances, the pain we’ve caused others and ourselves, the good things we were afraid to do, and the bad things we embraced with open arms. We work the night shift because that’s when evil walks. We’re the clerk in the all-night liquor store, the server in the 24-hour diner, the long-haul trucker who only drives at night, the counter person in the convenience store, the dog shift nurse. We recognize the evil when we see it, and we use the skills we honed with blood and fire to stop it, whatever it takes.

Unfinished business ties us to the mortal world, to make atonement, find absolution, satisfy retribution, get things right. You won’t find a sorrier group of halfway house heroes. No illusions left—about ourselves, humanity, or what’s really out there in the darkness. Just a purpose, to go down fighting the good fight. Because this is our last chance.

One final chance to make it right, the thin red line of humanity against the evil that goes bump in the night, your best hope to make it through the hour of the wolf

When a series of disappearances, suicides, and vengeful spirits cause havoc and death along a remote interstate highway, demon-hunting ex-priest Travis Dominick teams up with former special ops soldier and monster-hunter Brent Lawson to end the problem with extreme prejudice.

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I loved this story for so many reasons. When Travis and Brent first meet, there isn’t an instant feeling of friendship or that they’d be great working together. In fact it’s more the opposite, which adds a touch of realism. I liked the way they did slowly grow a friendship and reach the point where they felt they could trust each other. Although the tone is quite dark, it still has some humour in it as the banter is fabulous. I loved the conversation between Travis and Derek—the necromancer coroner—who tells Travis that getting the spirits to talk to him is like “confiding in a friend, instead of being called in to talk to the principal.”

The world building is fabulous, with the added bonus that it takes place within the same world as the author’s others series so Simon from Badlands and Mark and Chiara from Spells, Salt, & Steel make phone appearances, plus Travis gets regular stipends from Soren from Deadly Curiosities. for the St Dimas Outreach. I love the references to the Vatican Black Ops organization that Travis used to work for, plus the equally dark Occulatum, described as the church FBI, and CHARON. I’m looking forward to seeing these organisations directly clash in future stories. I was fascinated by the arcane archives, and the idea behind them, which makes perfect sense. I love how the supernatural/mythical lore is worked in, and well researched. It adds a huge degree of realism to the story.

Brent’s backstory is particularly tragic, and I loved his relationship with his brother Danny. I hope we haven’t seen the last of him. I liked how Travis, although he has left the priesthood, still can’t leave a lot of it behind, and has kept some of his beliefs, and the traditions that go with them. This added a layer of realism to his character. This is one of the things I love about this author and her characters—she doesn’t shy away from consequences, and her characters carry the burden of the past, and the things they have been through still haunts them. There’s no reset button at the end of each adventure, and I had a very real sense of their PTSD, which makes a lot of sense considering their lives and chosen paths. As an added note, Brent’s conversation with Travis’s mother is wonderful.

The supporting cast was great, and I loved the way they were all from different walks of life, and occupations, and came together with their different talents to fight against a common enemy. Each of them is quite different, yet similar in that they are aware of what is out there, and are drawn to help. They all have their own back stories, which adds to their depth of character. I also liked how ghosts play an active part in both the investigation and the final showdown. There are a lot of parallels with the Badlands series and I liked the feeling of similarity yet difference between them. The teamwork needed in the final showdown is a common theme through the author’s books, and something I really like about them. Also, that using their abilities has consequences, and it’s not always easy.

The city of Pittsburgh feels like a character in its own right, and many of the locations are real places. I liked how these guys spend time researching their foes, rather than just going in with guns blazing, and the strong sense of a team who feel like an extended family working together. One thing that really stood out was that at the end of the day, these are the good guys. The way they stopped to help out at an accident scene, and did what was needed showed that very clearly. It’s little things like that within a story that really cement a character, make them real, and make me want to come back for more.

I’d recommend Sons of Darkness to readers who enjoy well researched urban fantasy/paranormal stories with interesting characters, and a plot that keeps you turning pages. More please. 5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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