Tuesday, June 30, 2009

City of Souls - Sign of the Zodiac Bk 4 - Vicki Pettersson

In neon strewn city of Las Vegas, a war rages. An unseen war by mortals, but the fate of the world itself hangs in the balance. Surprisingly, to herself most of all, Joanna Archer has become the most important player in this battle. She is the Kairos, and it is written that she is destined to either help the Light or the Dark finally defeat the other. The trick is that no one knows which side Joanna will come down on since she herself is both a child of Light and Dark.

Joanna is the Archer for the Zodiac troop 175, a Troop of the Light. Unfortunately, in the last novel of Joanna's adventures The Touch of Twilight she "broke" her Changeling Jasmine. By splitting her chi with Jasmine the young girl has gained new powers, while Joanna has grown weaker, and refuses to give them up and grow up. Her younger sister Li was supposed to take her place as Joanna's Changeling, but with Jas refusing to proceed with puberty, Li slips further and further away. This has caused a major imbalance and already broken the city's safe zones for the Light. The Light side's manuals (comic books to you and me) are no longer being written anymore either. If Li dies then the Light will surely follow her as they become weaker and weaker without their manuals being written and their legends no longer growing in the mind of the young.

Joanna has been told that there is only one place where she may be able to fix things, Midheaven. A world ruled by women, and hidden from mortal eyes, where the price of admission is a piece of your very soul. Once there she must find Jaden Jacks, the only other person to ever "break" one of the Changelings before. Unfortunately for Joanna, Jacks has not been seen since he corrected the problem. The leader of Troop 175, Warren, believes that Jacks and his Changeling escaped to Midheaven leaving both sides to continue their war without them. Joanna must find a way to "fix" everything she's broken. If she fails in this mission, the
fourth Zodiac sign will not come to pass and the Dark will soon take over.

I love Vicki Pettersson's novels and short stories for a myriad of different reasons. She's taken something very old (the signs of the Zodiac) and put her own spin on it. Having superheroes and villains running about beneath our very noses, fighting battles, and influencing us, is a truly imaginative stroke of writing. City of Souls (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 4) continues building upon the mythology of Pettersson's world. Joanna deals with situations the way any of us would if we all woke up one day and discovered we could lift a car or jump to the roof of a two story building. She's strong yet vulnerable and with Pettersson writing her as a hybrid of both Light and Dark you're left to wonder which way Joanna as the "Kairos" will go. Will she turn out to be our savior or our damnation?

At times Pettersson does get a bit bogged down in her own mythology and forgets the story she's telling in the present. Plus, just from my ex comics shop owner side, she does forget that people buy and read back issues of comics (manuals) and trade paperbacks (bound volumes of issues) all the time. I used to sell people stacks of back issues and they would happily read them if there were no new comics around. The back issues and trade paperbacks of the manuals should provide for some strength for the Light, but they're never mentioned in City of Souls (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 4). Generally Ms. Pettersson is spot on with her comic book bits and the people who frequent comic shops, I just believe that this was an oversight on her part.

All in all, City of Souls (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 4) is a great read. Taking Joanna out of her comfort zone of Las Vegas was wonderful to read. One of the best things I can say about all of the Sign of the Zodiac series is that Ms. Pettersson takes a known mythology, reinterprets it, and completely owns her version of it. She also does a skillful job of reminding you of what has passed without boring the reader who already knows. It feels like a refresher course you're glad to take if you read as many novels as I do in between her books.

City of Souls (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 4) receives a Good rating from me, 3 stars out of 4.

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