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Riley Jenson, Guardian by Keri Arthur

Complete series with 9 novels and 1 short story.
Genres: urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction
Spinoff: Dark Angels

Blurb:

Riley Jenson is a dhampire, a rare offspring of a vampire and a werewolf. Riley and her twin brother, Rhoan, have been kicked out of their pack and now they are alone. She doesn’t want to be a Guardian, but she is left with no choice when one of the men she is dating does something to her against her will. Now her body is changing in new and sometimes horrifying ways, and the only people who can monitor the changes are the Guardians. So, she is forced to go after some of the worst society has to offer to try and make the world, or at least her corner of Australia, a better place.

Reading Order:

1. Full Moon Rising
2. Kissing Sin
3. Tempting Evil
3.5. Dreams (anthology: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance)
4. Dangerous Games
5. Embraced by Darkness
6. The Darkest Kiss
7. Deadly Desire
8. Bound to Shadows
9. Moon Sworn

Review:

Riley Jenson is a combination of things I expect out of urban fantasy and weird shit I don’t expect. There are a lot of things about the plot that is just quintessentially urban fantasy. We have the main character who goes off investigating something. It is also very seat of your pants, going from fire to fire. Then there are the things I don’t expect, like the weird science and the clones. The science isn’t really based in reality, and it is really weird. I really like the combination of urban fantasy, with the werewolves and vampires and even the psychic powers, and science fiction, with the genetic modification and clones. It is something I wish I would see more often in the genre (in fact I have looked for “urban scifi” before with not much luck). The idea just sort of works.

The series is kind of broken up into two parts for me. The first three books, which in my head I refer to as a trilogy. They are all about a super secret organisation of clones that the Guardians have to remove from the picture due to what they are trying to do. The villains are interesting because they want Riley and her genetics to do what they’re trying to do.

The rest of the series is a series of serial murder investigations. We transition from a series where there is a specific goal (find and get rid of the would be genetic mobster), to just a plain old urban fantasy detective series. Melbourne really has a serial killer problem. The plots get a bit predictable, but this series just isn’t about that. This series becomes about Riley and her many love interests, and how much we can make her suffer in the meantime.

The world is interesting. The first three books were focused on vampires and werewolves and the clones of vampires and werewolves, and that was just about it with the exception of some truly bizarre lab creations. Dangerous Games jumped from that focus to a more kitchen sink approach. Almost every other critter that you can find in urban fantasy shows up in this book. And some of them are really rare in the genre.

Riley is a main character that is going to go through hell throughout the series for your own enjoyment. You can tell this by the pure hell she had to go through in just this first book, and it isn’t over yet. Her dream for life is to find her soulmate and to have babies, even though as a dhampire she’ll have trouble conceiving. Otherwise, Riley is extremely loyal and absolutely determined to get her way. She is also the very typical urban fantasy “special” main character. The one who is unique because whatever they are are rare or impossible. In this case, dhampires are rare enough they’re thought impossible by most.

Riley also has a ton of love interests. Going off memory, there were seven total lovers (not just randoms, which happened) across the 9 books, with 355 sex scenes total. The rough thing about it is, most of them are just using Riley. We learn very little about them, other than they are rich (Riley really likes rich guys), and sexy, and really good at sex. There are two of them that aren’t assholes, and that is it. Even the one she ends up in the end is an absolute asshole in the middle of a series, to the point where I can’t look past what he has done to her. He almost feels like an entirely different person at the end than the one who committed those acts.

Riley slowly changes over the course of the series. First and foremost, her powers change and grow as the series demands. Riley also goes from hating the very idea of being a Guardian, to being frighteningly okay with certain aspects of the job, even if she still hates it.  Yet, we can tell she just isn’t well suited to this job. It is slowly breaking her. She hates it, she hates everything she has to do to get her revenge, to do her job, yet she is still doing it. It makes it less fun to read when you know the main character hates everything that is going on. You can tell by the end that Riley is really on her last straw with just about everything. She lost almost every dream she has had.

The hardest thing for me to accept is the things Riley gets into. Riley gets thrown into situations she has no right to be in. In the beginning I kept thinking “But she doesn’t have the training to do this! Or the credentials! Why is she doing this??” When she finally does have the credentials, she never really seems to use what she learned. She gets herself into more trouble than not.

The end of the third book wraps up the arc started in book one. But the last book in the series wraps up Riley Jenson herself. After losing everything she finds a way to deal with her losses and move forward. It is what you can hope for in a series such as this.

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