When you’re a dedicated reader like me, you develop a list of authors you can count on to match a specific book mood. Katie Epstein quickly earned a spot on that list, and with the third book in The Terra Vane Series, she did not disappoint. Technically portal fantasy, the books have an urban fantasy feel and offer a mix of people, many dismissed as mythical in our world, with distinct cultures and powers.
Terra is the Portiside equivalent of the police or FBI. These are police procedurals in part where all the normal rules are different to a small or large degree to accommodate the world. However, along with the dead bodies and investigations, there are strong personal threads, concerns about Terra’s unknown powers, tender moments, and bright spots of humor. The dialogue is sharp and multi-layered as are the relationships, which carry history and unresolved feelings as much as true bonds of family and friendship.
These are not standalone titles and Death Be Raven continues the romantic developments between Terra and Cole, her boss and her partner’s brother. That’s only one of the complicated relationships, though, as Terra’s connection to her partner Kaleb seems to be developing its own twists. She’s torn between all these feelings that she has trouble expressing, and the political and job consequences don’t make it any easier than the personal ones. The love triangle plays a stronger part in the third book for all Terra wants to pretend it doesn’t. Terra’s denials plus Cole’s attempts to balance a secret relationship with their work puts both of them in an awkward position. Neither is good at managing their feelings while Terra thinks Kaleb isn’t serious. Maybe she’s right, but I suspect not.
I enjoyed how Terra and Kaleb’s relationship deepens even without considering a romantic connection, though I fear the consequences of the last. She is starting to see more to him than she has before, looking below the surface. Terra has a habit of accepting her assumptions as fact where feelings, and other things, are concerned, something that has bitten her before. Perhaps it comes from not wanting others to delve too deeply into her past.
But don’t believe the relationships overwhelm the other events. There’s a lot going on as Terra, Bernard (a vampire friend we met in book two), and Kaleb attempt to find the prisoners who escaped in the first book. There is a thin trail of breadcrumbs to follow, and extrapolations don’t always lead them in the right direction. I was inspired to concoct several theories, which says good things about the book, and while some were right, others were not. Then there are the cases where I had a reasonable idea of the answer, but a twist made it even better. A villain monologue at one point expands on seeds we already know and helps the main characters organize a jumble of pieces. It doesn’t come across as an info dump, though, especially not with Terra teasing it out of the character.
I’m struggling with what to reveal as it’s all interwoven, but I certainly enjoyed the read. This book has a self-contained story that resolves if not necessarily happily then well. It also sets up the rest of the series in another, related direction, shifting things before this framework can become stale. The Terra Vale Series is best read in order as everything builds on the previous books, but for those who have enjoyed the first two books, the third is worth staying on course. And if you’re intrigued, I’d suggest checking out Death Be Blue, the starting point in what is an inventive and fun series.