A Kiss Before Doomsday follows on from It Happened One Doomsday, wherein crystal-wielding sorceress Dru met the ruggedly handsome Grayson, who came with the minor drawback of unwillingly being an apocalyptic Horseman. With the aid of Dru’s friends Rane and Opal, and Grayson’s pointedly named demonic car Hellbringer, they prevented the world from ending. However, it now transpires that the apocalypse thought to be averted was merely postponed, and other forces are working to break the biblical seals and bring about Armageddon.
This time the battle is a more personal affair, as Greyson is abducted by a gang of undead bikers, requiring Dru and her friends to find and rescue him, all the while a necromancer hopes to break the fifth seal with a mass raising of the dead.
The gender-flipped setup of a guy being the one in distress and requiring a band of girls to save him is a welcome change to the rescue mission norm, and Dru makes for an engaging heroine, never letting her comparative lack of power or abilities stop her from trying to do what’s right, while her stalwart companions remain loyally at her side in spite of the mounting danger. Unfortunately, the character focus also comes with the presence of sorcerer Salem, who we are supposed to accept as being supremely powerful but whose personality is more akin to that of some whining emo teenager bemoaning the fact that nobody listens to him, his petulant self-absorbed arrogance inspiring contempt rather than the awe intended, and it disappointingly seems he’s going to become a regular fixture.
A few action set pieces are peppered throughout the book (using garage equipment as improvised weaponry to fight the undead is a particular highlight) but by and large it’s a character-driven story, the heroes’ actions working to stabilise both their own lives and the chaos blighting the world. However, the nebulous antagonist never makes enough of an impact and the declared motivations are murky at best.
As can often be the case with sophomore entries of a fantasy series, A Kiss Before Doomsday feels like an extended coda to the opening instalment that resets the status quo after the fallout of its predecessor’s climax. By the time it finishes our intrepid heroes still have work ahead of them, and with two more seals to go – a planet-shattering earthquake and the invocation of deific wrath upon the world – there’s still a lot to play for.
A KISS BEFORE DOOMSDAY / AUTHOR: LAURENCE MACNAUGHTON / PUBLISHER: PYR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW