Night Betrayed
by Joss Ware
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-06-201863-2
****
He should have been dead. He was brought to the Death Lady herself, and she fully expected him to die. Yet, somehow, Selena used her unusual gift to bring Theo Waxnicki back to life. Of course, what she doesn't know is that Theo is a seventy-something walking around in the body of a twenty-five-year-old – that the odd dragon tatoos on his body really are remarkable for more than their intrigue.

Theo is long-lived, though he was never a member of the Elite, members of the uber-rich cult who became immortal courtesy of a special chip and caused the 2010 Apocalypse in the meantime. However, Theo was truly dead, and Selena did pull him back – but how? As soon as he's conscious again, Theo realizes there is more to the Death Lady he's heard tales about. For one thing, she seems to go out at night to battle the zombies that attack the few scattered settlements of humans remaining post-Change. For another, she sees this as some kind of duty. But what powers is Selena harboring besides a bedside manner that lulls the dying?

When a little girl goes missing from a storytelling gathering, Selena escapes the walled fortress of their community (zombies in this reality can't climb even stairs) to search for the little girl. This is when the reader and Theo both come closer to understanding that Selena has a way of delivering the soul— and that Selena may be the only human alive who has the ability to release the souls of zombies. Her connection to an individual's soul is exactly why she is driven to fight the zombies; Selena sees what they were and knows that what they are now is not by choice. So, yes, in the grand scheme, they must die; this, to Selena does not mean that their souls are undeserving of peace.

Now, Selena's fifty years old, though according to observations by a recently-released-from-unrequited-love Theo, she doesn't look it. By Selena's estimate, Theo is thirty, tops. Their attraction gives her a bit of a "cougar" complex, so she leaves it alone, knowing that the twenty-something local slut is more in his age range. Theo knows better, though he doesn't come right out and tell her who he is or why it is that, fifty years after most technology dissolved he's a computer whiz. Obviously, Selena's keeping secrets of her own.

When Theo discovers that his idol, a Mark-Zuckerberg-like billionaire, was in on the cult from the ground up, things take a turn. And when members of the Elite finally overcome their fear of the Death Lady and attack the settlement, Selena and Theo are both going to have to come out of their respective closets and put their little secrets to a combined use – saving the civilization for which they've worked so hard.

Night Betrayed is one of a series that revolves around this post-Apocalyptic world. Readers unfamiliar with the previous novels may be a little confused at the beginning concerning some of the background information, but Joss Ware helpfully and discreetly provides a new foundation for everything that happened.

Undoubtedly, anyone who picks up Night Betrayed and is a first-timer will want to pick up Ware's previous novels. Though the romance is a little forced, Theo and Selena are deep and thrilling characters, and the handful of secondary characters that Ware highlights are fully fleshed-out as well. The world she has created is vivid and poignant, with anecdotes from "before" that will be very obvious to readers; though said references will likely date the book in a few years.

Violence in what is a violent and precarious world is kept to a fair minimum all things considered, and the sensuality is kept from being blatant because the plotline revolves more around suspense than sex. Joss Ware's series is a winner, not only because of her catchy writing style but because it lends a fresh light to a genre that can wear thin.

--Sarrah Knight


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