No Peace for the Damned is an urban fantasy debut by Megan Powell. It was just released in trade paperback, ebook, and audio book this week. The second book in The Damned series, No Rest for the Damned, will be released later this year.
Ever since she was a little girl, Magnolia Kelch has been tortured and experimented on by her powerful father. All she has ever wanted is to escape from the clutches of her supernatural family and one day she manages to do just that. She is quickly found by Thirteen, an important member of the Network. The Network is an organization devoted to learning about the Kelch family and how to fight them.
While Thirteen convinces Magnolia to meet with his group in the Network and teach them what she knows, they both know it is going to be difficult for his team to get past their prejudices against the supernatural and work with a Kelch. Given Magnolia’s abilities and the pure lust one feels at the sight of her, it certainly is difficult for some team members to trust and accept her. It’s also difficult for Magnolia, who has never been able to trust anyone, to learn to work as part of a team. It’s even more difficult for her to deal with at the same time she finds herself developing an instant attraction and bond with Theo, one of the team members. To make matters worse, her powers also seem to be undergoing some changes and she finds herself dealing with some unfamiliar situations. Will Magnolia be able to learn to control herself and work with a team – and manage not to fall into her family’s control once again?
Most books contain a mixture of good and bad elements with the overall book weighing more toward one side or the other (or possibly falling right in the middle to create an overall reaction of ‘meh’). On very rare occasions there are books that one has no complaints at all about and sometimes there are books one has no praise for. Unfortunately, No Peace for the Damned falls into the latter category for me. I really don’t enjoy writing completely negative reviews and have been struggling to think of something I liked about it. The best I can come up with is that the premise was interesting enough that I wanted to read it in the first place – but that’s about where the appeal ended for me.
No Peace for the Damned piqued my curiosity since it is described as a dark urban fantasy, and I was also interested to see it had a heroine with supernatural powers without any mention of vampires, werewolves, zombies, angels, or any of the common urban fantasy beings. It was also intriguing to me that the heroine worked for an organization working against her own family. This seemed like it could create some interesting dilemmas, although it turned out it did not – not that I’m actually complaining about that because it made perfect sense that it did not. Magnolia’s family was so horrible there’s no reason she should have had any loyalty whatsoever toward them or any conflicted feelings about helping the enemy because of her family. (That’s not to say she had no conflicted feelings since she did about other things like giving people knowledge that could work against her, just not concerning her family.) I do think that this book had an interesting premise, but unfortunately it really faltered in its execution.
The one aspect of the novel I thought had the most potential were the glimpses into Magnolia’s family, both their powers and their backstory. Throughout the story Magnolia reveals more about her family’s individual powers, her power-hungry grandmother who started them all on the path toward evil, and exactly how her family treated her. The scenes regarding her torture could make some very uncomfortable since her father did horrible things to her. However, the story of Magnolia’s family was not nearly enough of this to save the book, especially since it was mostly clumsily told and disappointing. Most of what we learn about Magnolia’s family comes out in flashbacks and what we do see of them makes them appear to be a purely evil family with no depth.
For the most part, Magnolia is a dull, flat character. She does have some interesting struggles since we get to see the learning process she goes through as she learns to trust someone and what it’s like to be cared for – and to learn to care about someone in return. I do appreciate that we see a lot of this through her relationship with Thirteen, who is a friend, mentor, and father figure to Magnolia. Magnolia also struggles with acceptance since she knows others will not want to work with her just because she has the Kelch family name, and she also faces some changes to her powers that she doesn’t understand.
However, I couldn’t really like Magnolia or find her interesting despite the obstacles she was facing. Her narrative voice is lacking in personality other than the occasional attitude, but it’s not even entertaining or humorous attitude. She makes boring snarky comments that are generic and completely lacking in originality. She uses a lot of phrases that make her sound like a stereotypical teen despite the fact that she was in her twenties. Since she has been sheltered and isolated for her entire life, it makes sense that she would seem younger than she actually is. However, it really bothered me because of just how immature she sounded at times.
In addition to not being particularly vibrant as a character, Magnolia is a very cliched character. She has so many superpowers that she’d be perfect if not for her personality. It’s apparent early in the book that she can read minds and heal herself, but by the end it’s also clear that:
The mere sight of her is enough to inspire lust in nearly everyone who sees her. All it takes is one look and some people end up in a stupor, and many of the people who do hate her are unpleasant toward her because they want her and know they can’t have her.
Furthermore, the developing relationship in this story was based on an instant magnetic attraction between Magnolia and Theo, another member of the Network. When I read a book with a romance, I think the fun part is seeing what personality traits attract them to each other and watching the natural progression of the relationship as the two fall for each other. To skip right over this with magical attraction seems like such the lazy, dull way of writing a relationship to me. In this particular case, the bond between Magnolia and Theo is used as a convenient plot device – amor ex machina comes to the rescue for each of them over the course of the story. To be fair, I wouldn’t quite call it insta-love just because while there is some sort of attraction and bond, neither Magnolia nor Theo seem to think they’re in LOVE with each other.
No Peace for the Damned did not work for me at all – the writing style, dialogue, characters, and story all grated on me, plus it was full of dreaded tropes like the woman wanted by all and insta-lust (complete with a mysterious magical bond!). It had a potentially interesting thread in the family history and their supernatural powers, but it wasn’t executed well enough to carry the rest of the story. Some may find this a quick, diverting read, but it was not to my taste at all and I cannot personally recommend it.
My Rating: 1/10
Where I got my reading copy: I got an ARC when I met with the publicist to discuss their books at BEA.