5/5 - Deep in the caves of Guatemala, a secret ancient ritual takes place opening up a gateway to the Mayan underworld. Months later, Dr. Jaid Merritt receives the video feed only to find out her father was the man leading the ritual. Despite her fear of going on dig sites, Jaid must decide whether to face her fears and find her father at the Mayan temple, or risk losing him forever.
Full review after the jump!
Bloodgate Guardian was awesome! I really enjoyed this book filled with action, adventure, a little bit of romance and a lot of suspense. One of the many strengths of this book was the characters and story pacing. I loved that Jaid is not a generic kick butt heroine who rejects all feeling except her libido to do whatever needs to be done. She has a weakness (she injured her knee as a child during a dig with her parents), and although she shows signs of strength, she isn't afraid to break down with vulnerability when the weight of the world falls on her shoulders. She's a realistic heroine who shoes genuine fear and hesitance before going into a situation but when the chips are down, the girl's got moxie and will do what needs to be done. In other words, she's a great 3 dimensional character.
I also loved the hero, Ruin (especially his and his brother's name), and going into the book I tried to stay away from any spoilers or too much blurb info so it was a surprise to see how he ties into the story and not only serves as a gatekeeper in the temple but also a bridge for Jaid and her father as it ties into the story. Ruin is an appealing hero, but make no bones about it, he is also a ruthless killer with an edge. I love dangerous heroes and Ruin definitely qualifies as he teeters between killing Jaid or saving her at times. He makes no excuses for who and what he is and still there are qualities that make him redeemable so that the reader cheers him on.
Another thing I really liked was the tension that was built over the course of the story. Sometimes romances feel manipulated in that character's bodies react to one another within seconds of meeting each other instead of allowing the tension and need to grow naturally over time. In Bloodgate Guardian the characters reacted to more pressing matters and only later in the story did they start finding each other attractive. Even then, it slowly took its time while they focused on what was important which added to the "will they get together or won't they" that also added to the suspense in the story and made the actual consummation all the more rewarding after what they've been through. I love it when this course of action is taken because it keeps me guessing and flipping pages to find out how things unfold and how (or if) they will be together after the last page.
Another thing I really liked about the story is the dialogue. The story started out with a bang of an opening line: "He never hated his magic until it compelled him to kill" and just kept floating from there. Another fave of mine is "If men were as easy to decipher as Maya glyphs, then perhaps Jaid would have been able to translate "beware" carved in her boyfriend's handsome forehead and saved herself the trouble." Jaid often referred to herself as the Un-Indiana Jones which I thought was cute and during her revelation to how she hurt her knee and carries guilt due to her mother's death, there's a lot that's revealed through clever dialogue.
"Do you know what they call me in the archeology circles? The Un-Indiana Jones."
Head tilted, he studied her, a small smile flickering on his face. "I have no idea what that means, but it amuses you."
"Yeah," she admitted, nodding. "But it's embarrassing too. Indiana Jones is a movie archeologist, an action-adventure hero. I've built up ruins and archeology in my mind, believing I had to be a great risk0taker, an action-adventure heroine of my own."
"Deep down your heart you're still the little girl trying to impress her father."
Ouch, but oh so true."
Not only is there a great overall conflict, there is also a great inner conflict as evidenced in the dialogue above. Jaid's relationship with her father has been strained ever since her mother died at the dig where Jaid injured herself and ever since then she's stayed away from digs while her father became well known for his. There's a lot she has to overcome outside and within herself that was a joy to explore.
One last aspect out of many I really enjoyed about this story was the world building and the history of the Mayan culture. I have to admit, I didn't know much about it going in but after reading this, I'm eager to read more about the ancient civilization. I love how it was weaved into every aspect of the story and it helped drive the story at every turn. I also got to learn a lot about the belief systems and mythology, all of which was very interesting.
I have a few Joely Sue Burkhart books in my TBR that I've been collecting from Drollerie Press (one of my fave publishers) and after reading Bloodgate Guardian, I'm eager to dive into them. Ms. Burkhart has a way of writing a great story with snappy prose and dialogue to accompany such well rounded characters. I'm jazzed that Bloodgate Guardian was my first taste of her work and I can definitely say it won't be my last.
Bloodgate Guardian is now available in ebook format from Carina Press and other online bookstores. This is a review based on a book galley from Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher.
Also check out an excerpt of the first chapter and a free read inspired by Mayan mythology over at Ms. Burkhart's site.
Edited to Add: Joely Sue Burkhart is also offering a giveaway to help spread the word about Bloodgate Guardian. Check out the post on how to enter and then give her some book love after you check out the awesome read!