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Dark Oracle    by Alayna Williams order for
Dark Oracle
by Alayna Williams
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2010 (2010)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

There has been a huge rise in urban fantasy novels over the last few years. Most involve vampires, werewolves or other paranormal creatures (either as the good guys or the bad guys) and some sort of crime or other suspenseful situation. Not many, however, combine prophecy with quantum physics. This is what makes Alayna Williams' Dark Oracle stand out from the pack.

Tara Sheridan used to work as a profiler until she was caught by one of the serial killers she was supposed to stop. Around the same time, her mother died, leaving her alone in the world except for her cat Oscar. Actually, Tara would never be alone. Her mother was in line to be the successor of a group of oracles known as Delphi's Daughters (of which Tara is a former member), and the rest of the prophetesses refuse to leave Tara alone. Desperate for privacy, Tara has holed herself and Oscar up in a remote cabin, but Sophia, one of the Daughters who was closest to Tara's mom, calls her in for help on a case.

A particle accelerator collapsed and Lowell Magnusson, the scientist working on it, disappeared. For reasons unknown to Tara, the head prophetess, the Pythia, wants Tara to use her profiling skills to find him. After consulting her Tarot cards, Tara reluctantly agrees and finds herself teamed up with the handsome Harry Li. She also finds herself against her old partner and the target of a rogue Daughter. Tara and Harry must learn how to work together if they are going to find Magnusson, keep his daughter Cassie safe, and discover what really happened with the particle accelerator.

If Dark Oracle were not such a linear story, it could have been fantastic. As it was, each event led into the next, leaving no mental agility on the part of the reader in a story that was just begging for it. With some polishing, there could have been more of a sense of mystery and urgency. The characters, however, were well-developed and the story, unlike most urban fantasies, seemed almost realistic (except for the bedroom scene, which just seemed unnecessary).

The strongest aspects of Dark Oracle were the parts where Tara and various other Delphi Daughters read their oracles. In Tara's readings especially, Williams did an excellent job explaining what the layout looked like and what each card meant - these passages added another dimension to what otherwise could have been a flat story. Dark Oracle shows promise as the start of a new series. Alayna Williams has a great concept that could really knock out the competition with some fine tuning.

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