A somewhat expanded version of this appears on my blog, The Irresponsible Reader.
Even as she left his desiccated near-corpse hanging on the wall in Leo's sub-basement, we all knew that Jane was going to have to deal with The Son of Darkness sooner than later. So did she. Turns out it's a lot sooner than anyone expected or wanted (well, maybe some readers wanted it now, so sooner than Jane et al. wanted it). Joses Bar-Judas is probably the nastiest, toughest, most despicable supernatural creature we've encountered in these books -- and I don't see him being topped any time soon (well, maybe his brother).
The body count in this one is high -- and the ramifications for that are probably going to be felt for a book or two. Oddly, the police and people of New Orleans don't take kindly to an out-of-control vampire. Relations between the general populace and the Mithrans are near the breaking point.
But that's not the worst -- whatever this original vamp is capable of doing -- it's far more than Jane's ready for. Keeping fairly spoiler-free, let's just say that whatever punishment our Skinwalker's taken thus far is nothing compared to what she's got coming.
Along the way, Jane learns some things -- thanks to the vamps playing everything super, super close to their chests -- that changes how she thinks about and understands almost everything that's happened since she first came to New Orleans.
Which isn't to say this is a perfect book -- I've about had it with Molly, really. I'll always be interested in her daughter (and the way Beast thinks of that little kit), but Hunter needs to do something interesting with Molly soon. I didn't like the way that Jane's church (particularly their baptismal waters) were depicted. I've always appreciated how in the middle of all this crazy supernatural stuff, there's been a real drive in Jane for a connection to this church, which was fairly realistically depicted. Hunter sorta tossed that out of the window this time, and made it just as supernatural as everything else. I understand that impulse and how it fits into this world -- I just like it less. Lastly, there were plenty of opportunities for Jane and Jodi (and the rest of the police) to work together here, or at least for Jane to do a better job explaining things to her pal with the badge. But for the most part, all that was shoved to the sidelines in a pretty poor way. Yes, there's only so much Hunter can fit into 360 pages, but still.
Nevertheless, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor complaints when weighed against what Hunter <i>did</i> accomplish here. The chapters involving the final show-down were some of the best things I've read in this series, and were definitely filled with all the "what the -- ?!" moments you could ask for and a couple "did I just read that?" paragraphs as well.
In the midst of things at their worst -- we get some really nice moments with her not-boyfriend, Bruiser. Best of all, we're treated to some great, heartfelt, "Awww" inducing developments with Eli and Alex. I've liked Alex from the get-go, but Eli is about to become my favorite character in the series (sorry, Jane).
For most of the time I've been reading this series, I've pretty much thought of it as a decent UF series to tide me over between installments of my favorites. But as of the last two or three, I think I've come to realize that <i>this</i> is one of my favorites and that I'm really, really looking forward to seeing what comes next. <b>Dark Heir</b> is probably the best so far, and it'll take something big to top it.