Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Joan Matthews is returning home to Calvert, Oregon to lay her father to rest. Like those in her family before her, Joan is a witch. However, unlike the others, Joan doesn’t serve the town as a binder witch, but rather left years ago to be a war witch fighting vampires. Joan moves from town to town, going wherever the conflict takes her. She has no desire to return to Calvert and plans to leave as soon as her father’s funeral is over. But when she arrives, Joan finds Calvert changed. The town is run down, the local coven has dwindled, the town watch is barely hanging on, and vampires are relentlessly attacking. As much as Joan was hoping to get out of town quickly, she knows she can’t leave without first trying to help. Unfortunately, that means she can’t avoid her childhood friend and one-time love, Leigh Phan.
Leigh has never stopped loving Joan, but she knows she has made so many mistakes that she has lost any hope of being with her. It started years ago when Leigh all but pushed Joan away, knowing that Joan was on her way out of town anyway. But since then, Leigh’s life has fallen apart and she has big secrets that she is keeping hidden from everyone, including Joan.
As the women reconnect, it is clear the feelings they once had are still strong between them. But even if they could move on from the past, they still must deal with the fact that Joan doesn’t plan to stay in town, not to mention Leigh’s secrets that she knows can’t stay hidden for long, and most certainly will make Joan hate her when she inevitably learns the truth. However, even if they could move forward from the issues between them, they still have the vampire problem to face. With Calvert under never ending attack, Joan is fighting with all she has to help protect everyone. The vampires appear stronger than ever, the town’s protective boundary is shrinking, and even more frightening, for some reason the head vampire has his eyes set on Leigh. Now, Joan and Leigh must fight with all they have to stop the vampires, protect the town, and see if they can survive long enough to find their way back to each other.
Consecrated Ground is a thrilling and engaging urban fantasy with a great lovers reunited theme and featuring a tough, fearless, lesbian war witch (plus her underestimated, but also super awesome ex-girlfriend). This one totally captivated me right from the opening pages and I absolutely adored it. The story begins with Joan returning home and driving back into town and suddenly we are thrust into the action right away. This book is an interesting mix of genres, feeling like a contemporary urban fantasy with the battles between witches and vampires, but also with a really strong dystopian vibe that I found so exciting. The story takes place in what I would describe as an alternative version of our world where the early settlers included humans, witches, and vampires vying for territory. The people in the cities now mostly live peacefully, but that’s because they agree to provide blood to the vampires in exchange for their lives. But in the small towns on the outskirts, the situation is much more lawless. There seems to be no government or central organization protecting anyone and the people are left to fend for themselves against the vampire incursions. Making a supply run can easily turn deadly and people are picked off regularly and taken by the vampires. So there is just this great haunting element as these towns are struggling to survive against the all power vampires. Added into this we then have the witches, who work to protect the towns. Some are in the local covens, but others, like Joan, are war witches who travel around and fight where needed. So Black has just built this really engaging world and I found myself completely caught up in it all.
The story has two main conflicts. The first is the fractured relationship between Joan and Leigh, which fell apart as Joan was leaving town years ago. The women are sharing Joan’s father’s house (he had been letting Leigh live there when he was alive) and so they are in forced proximity. Both women are still drawn to the other, but Joan is angry about Leigh’s actions in the past (not to mention planning on leaving town almost immediately) and Leigh is filled with regret for her actions. But complicating things further is this big secret Leigh is keeping that threatens to blow up everything between them. I loved the way Black unfurls Leigh’s backstory. She slowly reveals what happened to Leigh with such great timing; it’s enough to really get the reader invested and keep things tantalizing, but also disclosed early enough that we can see the aftermath play out. I also loved the balance here between the women. Joan is full on, battle-hardened, bad ass with unbelievable skills at both fighting and magic. Her reputation precedes here and she is incredibly powerful. In contrast, Leigh seems smaller, weaker, and perhaps too emotionally soft to really handle herself when trouble comes. But as the story develops, we see that there is so much more to Leigh than we imagined and I loved the way she holds her own and ends up being the perfect partner for Joan.
The second conflict is, of course, the situation with the vampires. There are plenty of battle scenes, as we see Joan fight alongside the town watch to help hold back the vampires. But there is also a bit of mystery here in terms of what the vampires really want, who is behind all the attacks, who the traitor might be, etc. So there is a lot to uncover here that really keeps the supernatural side of things interesting as we figure out what exactly is going on. That said, we get lots of vampire butt-kicking, plus lots of scenes of Joan and Leigh being generally awesome, and I was just all in with them completely.
There are a few little bits of plot or world building I wish tied up a bit more cleanly, but nothing that stood in the way of my enjoyment. That said, I’d read more books set in this world in a hot minute, so I am really hoping the author chooses to continue with more stories. If you enjoy urban fantasy, kick-ass female characters, own voices stories, and some heavy dystopian vibes, Consecrated Ground is an excellent adventure and I can highly recommend it.