From the back: As a Miami narcotics detective, Leah Daniels never knows how her day will turn out. But she certainly doesn't expect to be strapped to a stone altar as a human sacrifice in an ancient Mayan ritual meant to coax a demon from the underworld -- or to be saved by a handsome warrior-priest king, who claims to recognize her from his visions. Striking Jaguar thinks he is the last of the Nightkeeper warrior-priests, but as the end-time approaches, his mentor reveals there are twelve others. In reuniting them, Strike -- king by birthright -- gains the power to summon a Mayan god to combat the demons. But the woman of his visions is the gods' chosen sacrifice. Now he must decide between love and duty. . .or find another way to invoke otherworldly magic in a death-defying race against the end of time.
Comments: This is the first book in a new series based on the Mayan belief that the world will end in 2012, on the Winter solstice. It's labeled as a romance, but if you like your hero and heroine to spend most of the book together, and be the focal point of the story, this may not work for you.
Strike's first responsibility is to his gods and to his people. After rescuing Leah, he reluctantly returns her to Miami, accepting the fact she will be safer there than with him. Jox, Strike's winikin (mentor/guardian/servant), is a traditionalist and agrees that Leah, a regular human and NOT a Nightkeeper, has no business in their world. But the gods must have a different opinion on that, because Strike and Leah have been dreaming of each other. If the gods didn't want her to be his queen, Strike reasons, why is she constantly in his thoughts? That line of reasoning doesn't help him convince Jox that Leah belongs with the Nightkeepers. Given the fact that King Scarred Jaguar -- Strike's father -- had visions that led his people into near annihilation, Strike meets with resistance to this idea. Jox is hoping one of the female Nightkeepers will interest him enough to forget the outsider. After coming to Leah's aid for the third time, Strike's had enough and insists that Leah is staying with the Nightkeepers whether the others like it or not.
Leah is a cop, trying to take down what she thinks is a serial killer. She doesn't know magic exists or that the Mayan end-time prophecy is real and not something a bunch of cultists -- led by a guy calling himself Zipacna -- latched onto in order to justify their actions. After being rescued the first time, Strike had her memory altered so she wouldn't remember the horror of almost being sacrificed. Because Leah's a cop, she still pursues the case. But even if she didn't, Zipacna would still be after her. The gods HAVE a purpose for Leah. A purpose she learns about, once her memories are restored at the Nightkeeper compound: if she's sacrificed by the Nightkeepers, and not Zipacna, the end-time clock will stop, the demons will not be released, and there will be life after December 21, 2012. Strike's having none of that. He still contends that his visions suggest that they are meant to be together.
Not only is he coping with the possibility of sacrificing the woman he's falling in love with, Strike's also dealing with the other inexperienced Nightkeepers. For the most part, they are a group of twenty-somethings, babies or toddlers when their parents were killed in the massacre. Most of the winikin raised their charges as godchildren, telling them stories of the Nightkeepers, without revealing their link to those stories. All of them had "normal" lives that got interrupted when Strike summoned them. Several of them don't even want to be there, including Strike's older sister Anna, who went away to college and never came back. As the autumnal equinox approaches, the group is still not functioning as a team. Strike, who hasn't officially taken on the roll of king, is more interested in finding an answer to Leah's problem and leaving the training to the others. It takes Leah's outsider perspective to finally move things in the right direction.
Since this is a romance, I never doubted that Strike would refuse to sacrifice Leah. And since this is a series with a battle between the forces of good and evil for the fate of the world, I knew up front that the end-time countdown wasn't going to be stopped in this book. I really enjoyed the mythology, the world building, and the epic feel of the story. Besides Strike's and Leah's point of view, the author gave us several other perspectives. We get inside the heads of Jox, Anna, and Anna's grad student Lucius -- who I think will play a larger roll at some point. We also got the POVs of the other Nighkeepers and some of the winikins. There are two Nightkeepers at the compound, Michael and Jade, who are mysteries because the author did not give us their perspective. And then there is Sven. Some tantalizing tidbits were revealed, but they weren't developed further. I'm interested to see how that's going to play out. There are a lot of characters and I can understand that not all of them could be developed in the first book.
Included is a preview of the second book, Dawnkeepers.
Started: 23 September 2008
Finished: 12 October 2008
Disclaimer: I purchased this book.