Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer

Series: The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy #1 Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: January 2nd 2018 Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery
Publisher: Demimonde Books Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 428 Author’s website: http://www.craigschaeferbooks.com/

Quote of the Book

“I believe that we all have two faces. Our public face – the mask we wear, the persona we want the world to see – and our true face. The person we really are, when we’re completely unguarded and our defenses are down. There is no greater intimacy than the truth, Marie. You can stand utterly nude before your lover and never show him anything at all. Nothing that truly matters. I know, I’ve done it. Your body isn’t who you are.”

-Nessa

Blurb

Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She's also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors. 

When Marie's case draws her into Nessa's path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it's the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death. 

They aren't going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice. 

This time, they're writing their own ending.

Personal notes

I’ve got a copy from the author in exchange of an honest review. Thanks to Craig Schaefer!

I’ve known Schaefer’s book previously, I’ve read the first few Daniel Faust books, and I absolutely intend to go back to it. In the meantime, he entered his new trilogy’s first book to SPFBO4, namely Sworn to the Night. It catched my eyes of course, but what absolutely made me bump it up on my TBR list was the cover of the third book, Bring the Fire. I fell in love with that at first sight and wanted to read it ASAP. But to do that, I had to go through the first two books first. Stupid trilogies.

Song of the Book

Okay, I don’t know why, but when I sat down to write this review and started to think what song should I pick, this was the first that popped into my mind. Actually it’s quite accurate.

Review

First of all, to read this book and/or trilogy you don’t necessarily need to be familiar with Craig Schaefer’s other series, but it can give an extra perspective if you’ve read his Daniel Faust or Harmony Black books (both characters will play a part in the events described in the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy), but especially the Revanche Cycle, where Nessa and Marie appear as characters. I’ve only read two of his Daniel Faust books and I had no problem following the story, but it definitely added a bit of extra understanding to Daniel’s character.

Sworn to the Night starts off as a regular detective novel. Marie Reinhart and Tony Fisher are trying to get to the end of a serial killing that’s happening all over New York. The victims are prostitutes and aside from Marie no one thinks the murders are connected. She is determined to find the latest missing girl, Baby Blue and is convinced she’ll be dead in two weeks if they don’t save her. The evidence first lead to an Ink storage house in Monticello, then to a wealthy business man with connections, Richard Roth. This is where Marie meets Nessa Roth and her life turns upside down. She has to question everything she ever knew about herself or the world and has to pay the price for it.

“My momma, she said there comes a time in everyone’s life when the Lord gives you a test. That moment when you go up against the wall and you find out what you’re really made of, deep down inside. It ain’t about winning or losing, it’s about learning. Because once you’ve seen the truth of what you are, you can’t never run away from it.” – Harlow

Being the first book of a trilogy, Sworn to the Night was a really great set up for the rest of the series, but it also had its own story arc for which kudos to Schaefer. Which started out to be an interesting mix of mystery and urban fantasy, soon turned into total craziness. What seemed a simple serial murder, was in reality a fun activity for a pack of wealthy guys aiming to belong to the inner circle of the Network, with some rituals on the side. And a booming business of drug dealing, namely ink which spreads through America like a wildfire.

Meanwhile The Lady in Red, Dora and the Mourner set some events into motion to help Nessa discover her powers and also to bring into play Daniel Faust and Harmony Black. Their motives aren’t quite clear yet, but there are still two more books to settle these matters. Another major player I need to mention is Savannah Cross, whom I feel will play an important role in the future. She is also a bit crazy, and has some cool equipment on her disposal.

“That’s the thing about life,” Janine said. “Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you find out that it can always get weirder.”

How true. Now that we have most major players out of the way, let’s focus a bit on our two main characters, Nessa and Marie. To be perfectly honest, I have conflicted feelings. On one hand their romance happens too fast, it’s too close to insta-love for my taste, and that annoys me. It still has some build up, and I actually enjoyed reading about the way they get to know each other (the whole dinner scene where they share stories about their life is just pure awesomeness), the insecurity, all the thrilling and at the same time terrifying feelings that accompany a new relationship. I probably could sympathize with Marie the most in that situation. At the beginning Nessa seemed like a timid, intelligent but oppressed woman who only needed a little push, a surge of confidence to find herself. What she had become was nothing that I have expected, and I’m still not sure I like the way where this relationship heads. At the same time I can understand why Marie feels drawn to Nessa, her need to finally let the control go out of her hands a bit and allow herself to be spontaneous and wild, let go of the pressure of being the strong and dependable one. To allow herself to be vulnerable after a long time. And that takes courage. I know this all too well. Even so, subordinating herself completely is not something I can make my peace with, and don’t think she will either in the long run.

“I believe that we all have two faces. Our public face – the mask we wear, the persona we want the world to see – and our true face. The person we really are, when we’re completely unguarded and our defenses are down. There is no greater intimacy than the truth, Marie. You can stand utterly nude before your lover and never show him anything at all. Nothing that truly matters. I know, I’ve done it. Your body isn’t who you are.” – Nessa

Sworn to the Night has several plotlines and not every one of them gets an ending, but you still don’t get that unfinished feeling when you turn the last page. Just anticipation and excitement to get your hands on the next book and learn what’s going to happen. Which says a lot, especially since this book really has everything you can think of: a murder mystery, magic, super evil villains, a secret underground community which deals with a drug called ink, forbidden romance, countless dead (and mutilated) bodies, unforgettable scenes and a few twist you never see coming. A wonderfully intriguing and delightfully brutal story after which you won’t be able to resist grabbing the sequel. Schaefer brings urban fantasy to a whole new level mixing it with mystery, classical fantasy elements – witches and knights – and wrapping it into a brilliant, although totally crazy read.

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