Verdict: DARK MANA: REDEMPTION leans heavily on the conventions of paranormal romance storytelling, but tells a satisfying story, full of thrills, and a fun love story that romance fans should enjoy.
DARK MANA: REDEMPTION is the first novel from J.H. Somers, and one that lives and breathes on the page in a way that all science fiction or paranormal stories try to do when asking readers to suspend their disbelief to come along for the journey. Somers has written a romance novel, first and foremost, that draws from a rich tradition of genre fiction found in the pages of pulpy paperbacks from decades ago to the ship-heavy, glittery paranormal love stories on the big screen. It’s well-mined territory, but stories about love and magic come from a deep well that just may never run dry.
Somers, as the hand up the back of the narrator, takes the story about a seemingly immortal necromancer protecting humanity, the human woman he loves, and her brother who just might be the greatest threat to all magical beings, very seriously. Somers the writer, however, knows that she is not writing this story in a vacuum. While she doesn’t go as far as say, Ernest Cline the author of Ready Player One, the pieces that make up this book are drawn from the established canon of the genre, but Somers adds her own twists on these well-known legends.
For example, in this book the hero character, Daro Jaksh, is able to temporarily assume the powers of a werewolf through a magical potion. In such transformation narratives—from Dr. Jekyll to the Hulk—the power usually comes with a curse. That’s not the case here. It makes certain, usually negative aspects of these mythologies into all upside with no downside. This creates an interesting dynamic, which makes for entertaining action scenes. Mythical abilities are like James Bond’s arsenal of weapons and gadgets. They appear in unique ways, but the characters are not married to these powers.
The downside to this approach and to the book in general is that Daro is effectively over-powered. While there is tension, what is expected usually ends up happening. Melissa gets into a jam, and Daro gets her out of it, in an awe-inspiring display of magical skill and tough-guy attitude. In adhering to the rules established by this genre, readers may be able to anticipate the beats of the story and how certain scenes play out. Readers most interested in the specifics of the world Somers built, or those who want a story that tries to outsmart them, may not find what they are looking for in this installment of the series.
But, if a reader goes into this story knowing that it’s the story of how Melissa and Daro get together, the story doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fun and imaginative adventure that deploys the tools in the paranormal writer’s toolbox in new and intriguing ways. Melissa’s character is the best-written of the book’s cast, which is key because she is the anchor for the reader in this story. That her ultimate quest—to find and save her brother—isn’t exactly fulfilled is the only part of obvious series-building in the book.
DARK MANA: REDEMPTION leans heavily on the conventions of paranormal romance storytelling, but tells a satisfying story, full of thrills, and a fun love story that romance fans should enjoy.
~Joshua M. Patton for IndieReader