(The Gatekeeper Chronicles, Book #1)
Author: Dina M. Given
Release Date: December 29, 2014
Book Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance
It’s not always easy to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys, especially when a trained killer may be falling in love with her evil hunter…
Emma Hayes, a former military Special Forces Operative turned mercenary-for-hire, finds her tightly controlled world turned upside down when she becomes the target of attacks by powerful supernatural creatures.
Emma must use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive as she tries to solve the mystery of why she has been targeted. Her list of enemies keeps growing - from Zane Shayde, an evil Mage, to a secret branch of the US government - and she doesn't know if there is anyone left she can trust.
To complicate matters further, Emma is inexplicably drawn to Zane in a way she does not quite understand, even knowing her life is forfeit if captured. Who is he and why does he have this affect on her? How can she fight someone who calls to her, body and soul?
Emma is left haunted by questions, doubts and fears as to why she has been targeted, when they will come for her next, and how she will possibly survive against an enemy she doesn't understand.
~~ We all want to know ~~
Where did your idea for the book came from…
I dragged this book kicking and screaming out of my head.
I had aspirations of becoming a novelist since I first learned to write my name, but I always heard stories from authors that their ideas came to them in dreams, or in a moment of complete clarity, or their characters just spoke to them, etc. So I sat around for decades waiting for that lightning bolt to strike me…and it never came.
I was under the belief that if a story idea didn’t just come to me from the universe, it wasn’t worth writing because it wouldn’t be any good. It wasn’t until I turned 40 when I finally gave the universe the finger. I decided that I was going to write a book come hell or high water, and if that meant burning brain cells for weeks trying to come up with an idea, then so be it.
Thankfully the nugget of idea didn’t take weeks. I first came up with a general theme based on what interested me, and that I didn’t see very often in novels – that no one is pure good or pure evil (good people can do bad things), and it’s the gray in people that creates conflict.
So I built on that, brainstorming page after page of ideas (which did several weeks), until the plot finally starting to take enough shape to create an outline and then start writing. And so UNHIDDEN was born, without an epidural.
The highway was empty, but Lilly continued to swerve randomly because an unpredictable moving target was harder to hit. The chimera threw another firebomb, and Lilly avoided it by mere inches. Realizing it wasn’t having much luck with this tactic, the creature tried a different approach. The chimera flew lower until it could peer through the missing rear window of the car.
“Oh, shit! It’s going to blast us,” I realized.
“Not if I blast it first,” Jason responded. He aimed the grenade launcher I had been using earlier, but the chimera was faster. It let loose a burst of flame from its throat. Lilly tried to stay ahead of it by speeding up yet was only partially successful. The tail end of the flames still reached the back of the car. I had ducked behind the seat, but Jason was still intent on aiming his weapon, and the molten phlegm touched his arm.
Jason’s scream of pain pierced the night, but the sensation also caused his hand to spasm and depress the trigger before he dropped the weapon. He landed a perfect shot right to the chimera’s head, although when the smoke cleared, the creature was still coming. The grenade didn’t seem to have seriously injured it, but it must have been enough of a nuisance to cause the creature to fly farther back from the car.
“Jason! Are you okay?” It sounded like a stupid question even as I said it, but I didn’t know what else to say. He clearly wasn’t okay. He had managed to put out the flames; however, the skin underneath was charred black and melted. He clutched his wrist, his face twisted in an agonized grimace.
The chimera came at us again, but this time, it rammed its full body weight into the side of the car, tipping it onto two wheels for a moment before the car righted itself again.
“We can’t stay out in the open like this,” Alex said.
“I know, I know. I’m working on it!” Lilly turned off the highway and onto the Brooklyn Bridge.
The network of steel cables that crisscrossed the historic bridge framed the roadway like a prison, making it impossible for the large chimera to fly alongside or directly above the car without slamming into the cables. The chimera was forced to pace us along the outside of the bridge over open water.
Alex shifted in his seat, pulling out his rune-carved staff. He rolled down the window, pointing his staff down toward the churning, black waters below. He muttered indecipherable words under his breath, his green eyes developing a deep luminescence I was learning signaled the use of magic.
Nothing happened at first, then a roaring began, like the sound of a freight train. It rapidly grew closer, louder. Jason and I leaned toward the window, trying to figure out what Alex was doing, when a geyser of water shot up from the East River, rising hundreds of feet into the air. It slammed into the chimera with such force the beast howled and went spinning through the air toward us.
The chimera was pitched violently into the steel cables of the bridge. Several cables snapped, and the bridge swayed slightly under the impact.
“You’re going to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge!” I screamed in horror, slapping Alex in the back of the head. “Figure out another way to kill that thing without destroying an iconic landmark.”
~~ Review ~~
We (Emily and Barb) would like to thank Love Between the Sheets Promotions and Dina M. Given for providing an ARC of Unhidden in return for an honest review.
**small spoiler alert**
Emma Hayes has had an interesting life. Despite having no memories due to an accident and a year long coma, she has filled the ten years since with more action than most people see in their whole lives. She is a former member of the Army’s Delta Force, and at the beginning of this novel, is a mercenary. This novel starts off with a bang - literally. Emma discovers that the South American mansion she is breaking into to rescue a kidnapped little girl belongs to none other than the girl’s “father” and her employer, Vincent Darko.
(I just had to do it, sorry, I couldn’t resist! Every time I read “Darko” I saw the rabbit.)
Anyway, Darko (Bwahahaha) hired her not to find his child - but to get his hands on Emma. He has plans for her that include her blood and a ritual sacrifice. Emma is beyond shocked when Darko’s henchmen attack her, and she realizes that they are NOT human. She barely escapes the house only to be bitten by the same “child” that she thought she was rescuing. Paralyzed, she watches her pursuer walk out of a raging fire without even getting singed. When she wakes, she is tied down in a cave, face to face with Darko and a very old woman with a very sharp knife. Her team rescues her, but not before she is nearly bled out. She gets her hands on the amulet that the old woman bathed in her blood, and takes it with her. After all, she thinks, it has her blood now, it sort of belongs to her.
See what I mean about starting with a bang? The craziness is just getting started in this novel. Back home in New York Emma is trying to get her head back on straight, not sure how to deal with the things that she saw in South America. She meets with her teammates Jason and Daniel, who saw (and shot at, in Jason’s case) the same creatures. They have no explanation for it either, but Daniel, her tech guy, and also her foster brother, mentions that the creature he saw resembles a Nidoking, a reptilian Pokemon.
(Yes, I had to look that up. I missed Pokemon by a few years. They’re cute - I guess less so when they are trying to kill you, though.)
They speak about the amulet as well, (which she is wearing constantly) and Daniel tells her of a shop where she may be able to get someone to translate the writing on it. After the meeting with Jason and Daniel she notices she has a watcher. She and her team had met in a bar, so she takes the initiative and flirts with him, acting like she is more tipsy than she actually is. He doesn’t respond the way that she thinks he should, but when she leaves the bar she is sure that he will follow her. She thinks that he is another one of Darko’s people, sent to either kill her or kidnap her, since Darko never finished what he started with her. She leaves the bar, purposefully walking in a dangerous part of town. Someone has followed her all right, but not who she was expecting. Instead she is faced with a tall man with long dark hair, who seems familiar to her, but she can’t place him. The first thing he does is to ask her if she knows him.
When she says that she doesn’t this seems to sadden him for just a brief moment, like he expected her to know him. Then he totally flips his attitude. He has control of these shadow creatures, and orders them to capture her. She fights back, gets the advantage over him, and demands answers. He says this, which makes no sense whatsoever to her:
“There was a time when you wouldn’t have needed to ask that question. My name is Zane Shayde. I am the high commander of Lord Gabriel Marduk, our protector and savior. I have been dispatched to bring you back to Urusilim, preferably alive, but dead will do just as well.”
The fight is on. He calls her a traitor, and she objects, saying she has never betrayed her country. He fires back, saying he’s not talking about her missions and service in this world but in his. (I’m thinking that something must have happened that year she was in a coma, maybe?) She still doesn’t know what the hell he’s on about, and he’s acting quite bipolar. One minute he’s telling her that he missed her and is grinding up on her and the next he’s calling her a harlot and the destroyer of worlds and trying to kill her. Even though her brain is screaming at her that this is just not right, her body reacts to him like it knows him, even if her mind doesn’t. This guy seriously needs his meds. The guy she was trying to get to follow her, Alex, shows up right on time, and is apparently familiar with Mr Mental Health 2014. Alex works for some kind of council, and says he wants to protect her. Zane, not so much. She gets her hands on Zane’s sword. Fighting begins between Alex and Zane, and between her and the shadow creatures. She’s getting her ass kicked by them, because every time they land a hit on her she doesn’t just get cut up and bleed, it feels like it’s freezing. The amulet starts to glow. When she takes it out, the demons scream and disappear. She manages to shoot Zane in the shoulder before passing out.
She wakes up the next day in her apartment, with Alex nowhere to be found. Following her only lead, Emma goes to the shop that Daniel told her about to ask about the amulet. There she Lilly Alfreda, who owns the shop. She’s bubbly to the point of pain, (I like her) but when Emma shows her the amulet she knows what it is. Lilly reveals that she is an elf, pointy ears and all, and tells Emma that the amulet is a god-stone, and that it appears in a creation myth of her people. She references Urusilim, the same place that Zane was babbling about, says that the creatures she saw were called Monere. She tells her the story of the amulet, that it was made to separate the realities of the human world and Urusilim, the world of fae and elves, demons, angels, trolls and everything supernatural. Lilly takes a picture of the amulet, saying that she can’t read the writing, but she will show it to her grandmother, who might be able to decipher it.
By now Emma is wondering if the whole world has gone crazy. She’s fought with more than a couple of creatures that not that long ago she wouldn’t have believed existed. She just met an elf. Zane can’t decide if he wants to kiss her or kill her. She’s drawn to him, even though she thinks he’s insane. Alex says he wants to help her, but can she trust him? Just who the hell are all these people? She wonders just who the hell she is, just for good measure. Is she just as nuts as Zane? On her way back from the shop, she notices she is being followed. She lures the guy to Grand Central Station and manages to get the drop on him, thinking that she will get him alone and get some answers. Just her luck, he turns out to be a shifter, and she barely manages to incapacitate him. The guy says he was hired by Gabriel Marduk, the same guy Zane works for. She tries to ask him about Marduk, but Eddie (the shifter) catches on that she can’t remember anything that he thinks that she should know.
He doesn’t know why Marduk wants her, he was just supposed to find out what and with whom was she was working, and if she was using magic. He also tells her more about Zane when she asks, saying that he was a mage, and also crazy. (yeah, figured that one out earlier….) He tells her that he doesn’t know why Marduk wants her, but he either wants her on his side in some sort of battle or disagreement, or he wants her dead, so that she can’t help the other side. Eddie is about to tell her something about who she is (his words) when Alex, who was apparently also following Emma and is much better at hiding, shoots Eddie in the neck, killing him. She shoots Alex back, and he deflects it with what she calls a staff, which acts sort of like a more beefed up looking version of a magic wand (**expelliarmus!!** bwhahahha) He very calmly tells her that Eddie was going to kill her. He calls her Ash, which gives her a shock. Now she finally get some more information.
Alex tells her that he’s a mage as well, (cause mage sounds soooo much cooler than wizard, right? **snort**) and was able to hide himself from her to follow her. He says she is using magic to enhance her natural abilities without even knowing it. He tells her that her real name is Ashnan, and that she is actually from Urusilim. She says no, she had parents, even if she can’t remember any of her childhood. This makes her question herself and stop and think. What if she really was from there? She doesn’t have anything to go on other than what she’s been told by other people. Her whole world is suddenly turned on its side. Who can she trust? She visits Ben, an old friend from the military. Ben’s speciality is procurement and financial wizardry - he is also the only person that she trusts that knows the details of her “accident” and early life. He tells her some things that confirm what Alex and Zane have been saying, and only serve to make her more confused. She was found in the desert, and yes, she was out of it for a year, but when she did come to she was speaking nonsense about other dimensions and such. Ben was instrumental in having her placed in foster care, with the government continuing to watch her for any signs of her memory returning.
There is a massive government conspiracy and cover up. Emma finds out more about herself and Zane and how they are connected. (It’s closer than you think.) Our dimension isn’t the only world with struggle and intrigue; Urusilim has just as many different groups all vying for control. When an ancient weapon is the only thing that stands between Urusilim and the human world colliding, Emma has to make some sacrifices for the greater good. Believe it or not, at this point, this novel is just getting started. There is so much here, that I hesitate to reveal any more its secrets. This author has created a world so wide and varied that I can’t help but hope that this series goes on for a long, long time.
I read “Unhidden” along with Emmy (my 5* review will be posted on 1/22/15 as to not overwhelm y’all with a lot of the same info) and I have to say I frigging LOVED it. Such an action packed story. Seriously a page turner from page one. I was amazed at the descriptiveness of the details. I could picture every character, every creature in my head as I read. That is a big feat. I am not one to read a book and not have my own little movie in my head so the fact that I could do that without skipping a beat was great. And unlike Emmy I didn't have to look up our little Pokemon referenced character... (shifty) but the D&D stuff I did. LOL
The flow of the story was seamless. At no time was I left going “Urm.. what just happened”. Again, a great thing. I was astonished and a few times the book got yelled at.. LOL but that is normal as well. Maybe I need a head check but I get into a book.
The feels this one had invoked was off the charts at times. Shock, hurt and desperation to get to the next page. No kidding. I even had a few moments of total awe and a few of those moments where you just stare at the page and go “what the actual fuck” and then kept going. (laughs hard) Needless to say this series is on my must buy now list. Its a short but growing list. I really am excited about the next one. Bring it on!!!!
~~ End Review ~~
~~About the Author~~Dina Given lives in rural New Jersey – home of farms, horses and the largest hot air balloon festival in North America – with her husband, two crazy kids, and one rescue dog. She is an exercise enthusiast and avid lover of food and wine (hence the need to exercise). Dina also works full time for one of the largest healthcare companies in the world. She attributes her ability to juggle family, work and writing to her obsessive, hyper-focused, Type A personality.