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Dark Protector    by Alexis Morgan order for
Dark Protector
by Alexis Morgan
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Devlin Bane was born a Paladin, a member of an elite and ancient band of warriors fighting a centuries-old war against an evil from deep below the earth. His unique physiology allows him to die over and over again in the ongoing struggle to protect humankind from invasion by the Others. Every time fragile underground barriers are breached by seismic activity, it is only the Paladins who stand against creatures determined to escape the ravages of their dark and unforgiving world. During each bloody battle, Paladins die, only to be revived by their human Handlers. Once recovered, they're ordered back to the front lines to face the next invasion - until the day they revert back to their origins to become one of the monsters they were born to destroy. Then it's up to their Handlers to mercifully euthanize their assigned Paladins before the beast inside them takes complete control.

Dr. Laurel Young has worked hard for her position as a Handler and knows she must keep herself at a distance from her patients. But each time she helps Bane through his resurgence, she cannot ignore the sorrow she sees in his eyes the moment he comes back to life. She knows it's only a matter of time before he loses his humanity and that she'll be the one who must make the call to end his suffering. But the closer they become, the more she questions her ability to put him down when his time comes. This realization only makes her more determined to discover the secret to Devlin Bane's longevity. Something about his physiology is unique, and Laurel is determined to isolate it and end the Paladins' eventual decent into madness. But a shadowy enemy within the Regents (those who control the Paladins) wants Bane out of the way, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal - including using Laurel as bait to lure Bane to a final confrontation and this time, true death.

Alexis Morgan not only introduces a fresh and thought-provoking mythology in Dark Protector, she's also created a compelling band of otherworldly warriors whose damning physiology and societal restrictions elicit reader sympathy. She does a nice job with Devlin's and Laurel's character development and of showing the difficulties their relationship presents. She is a little vague with details about the Others and how they survive below ground under threat of volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates - but I'm sure more world building and explanation will be forthcoming as the series progresses. If you're a paranormal fan who needs a break from a steady diet of vampires, werewolves and witches, then pencil Dark Protector onto your shopping list - you're sure to develop a craving for the sequel due out soon.

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