“Black Scars” is the second book in the Blood Skies series from Steven Montano (@Daezarkian). Much like its predecessor, “Blood Skies,” this book is rich in vivid imagery, exciting and often-times brutal action and a setting that is — to put it as simply as I can — pretty damn cool.
In “Black Scars,” Cross, a human with magical abilities, has been sent on a mission critical to human survival. He must find The Woman In The Ice because she holds the key to defending against a hugely powerful and unknown force which can destroy the remnants of humanity. To get to the Woman, though, he will have to overcome both human and undead enemies who are also searching for her.
This is a somewhat bare-bones plot summary, but to give much more would spoil a rollicking adventure told with rich descriptive prose. Mr. Montano paints a scene with words in a way that is lyrical and vivid. You will know and feel the bitter cold of The Reach, and the awful fear of facing a vampire’s razor-sharp claws and black soul-less eyes.
Previous post-apocalyptic stories I’ve read have used nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, climate change, pestilence, zombies, vampires, etc., as the backdrop for a shattered, lawless society or ravaged Earth. Mr. Montano’s construct is refreshingly unique and one that gives him a great deal of freedom to let his obviously fertile imagination run free.
Over 20 years ago The Black — a cataclysmic event that no one truly understands the origins of — fused Earth with countless other worlds. The Black added species, continents, cities, and — most important for the survival of humans — magic to our planet while wiping out or altering our previous existence.
Mr. Montano’s Earth contains all manner of nasty and dangerous beasties, including vampires, Blood Wolves, and giants of terrifying strength and viciousness — to name but a few. Most of the humans have cobbled together a defensive group called the Southern Claw Alliance, and are locked in mortal battle with the vampires of the Ebon Cities.
Cross is the protagonist of the first two Blood Skies books, a human warlock working for the Claw. As mentioned, discovering humans capable of magic was key to the species’ survival after The Black. In another construct I find refreshing and interesting, all magic wielders are fused with a unique spirit that is always of the opposite sex.
By employing his spirit, Cross battles other humans and creatures, magical or not, and reconnoiter the ground ahead. Spirits are afraid and hostile when faced with another, and when a witch and warlock are in proximity the tension can sap their strength as they must rein in the aggressive nature of their spirits.
I highly recommend starting with “Blood Skies” and then moving on to “Black Scars.” Each book stands alone as an installment in the series, but to fully appreciate Mr. Montano’s work read them in sequence. The third book in the series, “Soulrazor” is also out, and is on my To-Read list. I can’t wait.