**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Series: Realm Walker #1
Published by Carina Press on October 28, 2013
Genres: Urban Fantasy
AMAZON • B&N • Goodreads
An estranged mate, a mangled body and a powerful demon who calls her by name…
As a Realm Walker for the Agency, Juliana Norris tracks deadly paranormal quarry using her unique ability to see magical signatures. She excels at her job, but her friends worry about her mysterious habit of dying in the line of duty without staying dead. That’s only the first of her secrets.
Most people don’t know Juliana became the mate of master vampire Thomas Kendrick before he abandoned her seven years ago. Most people don’t know the horrors she endured at the hands of the vampire he left in command. Most people don’t know her true parentage, or why a demon on a world-threatening rampage has taken a personal interest in her…
Even as Juliana pursues the demon, it goes after all she holds dear—including Thomas, who is back to claim her for his own. But if she can’t reconcile her past and learn to trust herself again, she will lose him forever.
With an interesting mystery, addictive world building, and an engaging heroine, Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins is a promising start to a new urban fantasy series that I think will appeal to many fans of the genre.
I liked Realm Walker for several reasons but mainly because I enjoyed being in the world Collins created. With vampires, werewolves, witches, trolls, demons, mages…this world is inhabited by all walks of supernatural life. It‘s dark and violent but also rich and varied. The politics between groups and the day-to-day policing done by the Agency adds a nice crime novel feel to the story and there’s a tangible sense of danger in this world which keeps it exciting. All in all, this is a world I want to come back to.
The other element that made Realm Walker so engaging is its cast of characters. Juliana is a great UF heroine – strong, independent, totally capable but not invincible. She has a mysterious past, interesting powers, and a mate who abandoned her. Enter Thomas Kendrick, powerful leader of the local vampire coven, who comes back to town to claim what’s his, namely Juliana. I thought Thomas bordered on being your typical alpha UF male lead but he had an added layer of complexity due to his ambiguous intentions. Perhaps one of the weakest parts of the story is the conflict between Juliana and Thomas. She’s hurt and angry that Thomas abandoned her and his leaving down had a domino effect. Without his protection, Juliana suffered horrific abuse at the hands of the coven. Thomas doesn’t know this but it’s a large part of why Juliana feels so betrayed. I had a hard time believing that Thomas would just pick up and leave town without a clear explanation and this is what Collins needs you to believe. It adds to Thomas’s ambiguity, to the depth of Juliana’s betrayal, and to the anticipation of a resolution. When you learn why he left, it’s a hard sale to ask a reader to believe Thomas wouldn’t have explained it to Juliana before actually doing it thereby avoiding a lot of the drama that ensued. Yet one aspect I appreciated about this conflict was that an argument can be made for the fact that, though Juliana suffered and suffered horrifically, she also survived and found her place in the world working for the Agency, something that might not have happened had Thomas stuck around.
The supporting cast is great. I want to know about Michael, Juliana’s close friend, partner in crime, and Thomas’s right hand man. He’s mysterious. You wonder what his true feelings for Juliana are and how he’s going to repair his relationship with Thomas. Other characters include Nathaniel, the brawny werewolf partner who likes to read, the fire elemental handler with a wife and kids who wishes Juliana would take less chances, and Ben the vampire boss who questions Juliana’s loyalty. These are all interesting and engaging characters that round out the story and it’s the camaraderie and banter between them all that gives Realm Walker some of its best moments. This supporting cast is dominated by men which is something I am slowly growing a bit weary of in UF. Is it possible to have strong female heroines with strong female friends who play more than bit roles in the heroine’s life? But I digress, the cast Collins creates is an interesting one and I’m looking forward to seeing how these relationships play out over the course of the series.
Finally, the climax of the story was a bit of a letdown. Juliana is tracking a powerful demon who is hopping body from body and leaving death and destruction in its wake. The demon is also targeting Juliana and she has to get to it before it gets to her first. Collins did a good job of building up the anticipation and tension in this chase but once the demon is cornered, after a long cat and mouse game, the solution to it all was quick and a bit unexciting. There’s also a sense of, why didn’t they think of that earlier?
Regardless of some small issues, I really enjoyed Realm Walker. In fact, I practically inhaled it. The world is absorbing and both its heroine and its supporting cast of characters piqued my interest enough to want to spend more time with them. I’m definitely looking forward to the follow-up to this debut and I recommend it to all fans of urban fantasy looking for something new. 3.5 Howls!