Keepers & Killers is the second book in the Alchemy Series by Donna Augustine. It picks up a few months after the first book ends and this is where the shit really hits fan.
It starts with another pretty cover, showing Jo again, this time in what I call her "poker outfit". She has been working at the casino for a few months now and has picked up the habit of gambling with the high rollers. She makes money by operating a wormhole into the other worlds in the basement of The Lacard which she is now pretty good at, despite her rough start.
The Bad Guy
The character of Senator Core was introduced in the last book but he becomes the real villain in this one. He is not what he seems on the outside, a classy suave politician and is something much worse. Nobody knows what though. I like how the author gives the reader someone to hate. In the last book, it wasn't exactly as cut and dry since Jo was still learning so much about the world she had been dragged into. Senator Core is the perfect evil man.
He causes a lot of heartache and pain in Jo's life, something that she never thought she would feel again. She had cut herself off from everyone and pushed Cormac away emphatically but Core manages to cut her deep. He goes after her past and her old friends and foster families. Since he can't hurt her physically, he attacks her emotionally.
Things escalate quickly, especially after a prophecy from the last book becomes startlingly relevant. Even then though, Jo and Cormac have time to bicker and ignore the sexual tension between them.
"Are you calling me slow?" "More like idiot savant"I honestly love the immaturity of it all. Cormac is above that and is hundreds of years old but he still loves pushing Jo's buttons and she is just as bad. She insults him, pushes him away, yells at him, insults him some more and yet still finds him incredibly sexy. He is obviously attracted to her but there is no force behind his affections. He is controlled and doesn't push her beyond what she can handle and he lets her make her own decisions.
"Between the shooting and now the hitting, I'm starting to harbor some suspicions about what era you people really come from. Chemists, my ass."I mean, he steals her trailer. He basically imprisons her just to piss her off (and really to watch out for her. He is after all, a good guy.) Cormac shows that he has a little bit of the gentleman in him and a little bit of the caveman too. He always seems to be constrained by having to act like he is normal but as Jo points out, he has a somewhat uncivilized manner to him and that is what makes him so strong and intimidating.
Jo grows a lot in this book and I appreciate that this is sort of like a coming of age story inside of a science fiction novel. She realizes that she is the only person that can really fix what is going on with the wormholes malfunctioning and the weird prophecy about her. Jo has to come out of the her bunker against other people and accept that she is part of something bigger than herself. She has a moral responsibility to help. This growth is necessary because she has to overcome her inclination to avoid feelings and move forward with her relationships, not only with Cormac but also his henchmen, Buzz and Dodd, who become close friends and her old friend, Lacey, who Cormac is using as a weapon against her. Jo feels her walls crumbling and finally sees that she has to let them fall.
Action and Adventure
Keepers & Killers does not fall to the second book syndrome and takes a massive step forward with the plot. It almost turns into a horror story by the end when everything starts falling apart. The characters do not remain in Las Vegas and the readers can see whole scale destruction in a new way. I frankly haven't read anything like this as far as apocalypses go. It's a good one. But this is only the second in the series and the worst is yet to come. The character building that happens in this book is necessary to support all of the chaos that is to come, foreshadowed by the ending here.
"Welcome to our new universe."