BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Spotlight On: Hainted


Title: Hainted

Author/Publisher: Jordan L Hawk

Pages: 248 pp

Price: $11.99 (paperback) / $3.99 (ebook)

Dante (Dan) Miller is a hereditary "haint-worker," a Walker Between the Worlds who protects the living by putting the unsettled dead to rest. When his mother died at the hands of an angry haint, and grief drove his father to suicide, Dan suddenly found himself responsible for two younger siblings and the family farm. He put aside the haint work and focused on creating a normal, stable life.

Then Leif Helsvin drove into town. Goth, gorgeous, and tattooed, Leif needs his help stopping an evil necromancer who is forcibly raising the dead in search of an ancient power -- one which could allow him to raise and control uncounted dead, putting everyone Dan loves in mortal danger ....

Hainted has been on my To Read list for a while. On impulse, I finally bought it last week -- and read it in two days. If not for the distractions of working, eating, and sleeping, I probably would have read it straight through in one sitting. Let me count the ways I love this book.

1) Hainted is one of the most explicitly polytheist/Pagan urban fantasies I have ever read. As Leif notes at one point: Walkers-Between-Worlds came from every tradition on earth, from Catholic exorcists to Vodoun Mambos to Inuit shamans .... Leif himself is a devotee of Hel, and he calls upon Her -- and Mordgud, the guardian of the bridge to Her realm -- whenever he exorcises a haint. Dan is a devotee of Hekate; he often hears her hounds baying and can even feel them rushing passed him when he settles an unquiet spirit. Dan's friend and fellow Walker, Taryn, on the other hand, is devoted to Anubis; a vision from the Jackal God compels her to join Dan and Leif in their fight with the evil necromancer. Their differing traditions are treated respectfully not just by the characters, but also by the author herself. 

2) Hainted gets Hel right. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to find a fantasy novel which does not treat the Deities of Death and the Underworld as the villains. That gets so annoying! It's lazy writing and lazy research. Hel may not be warm and cuddly, but She is a ruthlessly fair Deity. Her primary concern is also with the dead, not the living -- so when a necromancer starts messing with those under Her protection, She gets a bit miffed ... and she expects Leif to do his job and take care of the problem, not whine and moan about the unfairness of the situation.

3) Loki gets a bad rap in some circles, but I am rather fond of Him. As such, I was happy to see this exchange: 

"I was pretty screwed up," Leif said ruefully. "How doesn't really matter right now. Alice showed up one day when I was in college, walking back to my apartment from classes. She told me Loki had sent her to me. [....] He's also Hel's father, and when one of Her tools needed repair, He did what any doting parent would do and tried to fix it. He sent Alice to straighten me out, make me into the Walker Hel needed me to be."

4) I admit that I have a soft-spot for Asheville, North Carolina. It's one of my favorite cities. When I discovered that Hainted is set in the Appalachian area of western North Carolina, I figured that Asheville would at least get a mention -- I hadn't expected a good chunk of the story to take place there. I admit that I squeed when Leif and Dan visited places that I knew in real life. (Is this what it is like for people who live in large cities that feature in so much of our literature, like New York and Chicago?)

5) Dan and Leif. Well-rounded, sympathetic protagonists are a must for me. If I can't engage with the characters, I give up on the story (or force myself to finish, and then I just end up resenting the characters and the author). Fortunately, Dan and Leif are each a compelling mixture of heroic and flawed. Dan considers himself a country hick who doesn't deserve to be happy after "allowing" his mother to die; but he possesses a deep core of bravery and responsibility, and he doesn't hesitate to help Leif. Leif, on the other hand, feels tainted by his past association with the necromancer, that he can never make up for what he did in his youth; yet he is fierce in his devotion to Hel, in helping the restless dead, and he admires Dan for all the sacrifices he has made for his family. They are each other's staunchest supporters in the face of external condemnation and threats, yet neither can believe that the other man could possibly love someone like him. It is all wonderfully angsty, with an appropriately dramatic happily-ever-after.

So there you have it. If you looking for an urban fantasy that takes the Old Goddesses seriously, contains scary (un)dead monsters and an evil necromancer, the hunt for a lost treasure, lots of action, and plenty of sexy romance, look no further than Hainted.


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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


  • Tammy Nelson
    Tammy Nelson Thursday, 15 October 2015

    I love this author! It was a different series that got me hooked, but I have devoured every single book she has published. She has a special gift for capturing the essence, the personhood of ALL her characters, not just the human ones. Her Whyborne and Griffin series as it progresses and the SPECTR series are two others that show her ability to help the reader view things through wholly different sets of eyes. The audios of her books are also really well done.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Thursday, 15 October 2015

    @Tammy Nelson: Yep, I love the Whyborne and Griffin series; I have read them all, to date, including the short stories. I've read the first, short installment of SPECTR, and the rest is on my To Read SOOOOON list. :)

    Have you read any of KJ Charles or Rhys Ford's books? Or the Charmed and Dangerous anthology?

  • Tammy Nelson
    Tammy Nelson Thursday, 15 October 2015

    Oh my goodness! You've just named two of my other absolute favorite authors.LOL Those three were my introduction into the non fanfiction world of m/m romance. But it feels like calling their works that is a bit of a disservice because they are so much more than boy meets boy, boy crushes on boy, interesting and creative positions are assumed, HEA. Have you read Rhys's Apocalyptic novel about the horsemen, Ink and Shadows? That book actually helped me work through some things in my own life, helped me learn to visualize the negative thoughts sometimes like to play around in my head, and to inspect them and guard against them in a way that was not accessible to me before. And the story is pretty amazing too. :-)

    And yes, I also have read Charmed and Dangerous. It has several other authors I have grown fond of and unfortunately has alerted me to others. LOL Darn Jordan Castillo Price and her successful marketing techniques. :p

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Friday, 16 October 2015

    I have not read Ford's Apocalyptic novel, but I am in the middle of Black Dgo Blues.

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