Ghostland has a very eye catching cover that gives the reader a good sense about the story inside. Jory Strong has written a post-Apocalyptic tale that deals with fears. These fears are everything from loss, death and isolation. There is a great deal of isolation in Ghostland seen through the eyes of the heroine Aisling McConaughey. Aisling is very special. She is an orphan shamaness who lives on a farm in the outskirts of the city of Oakland, California. Aisling has the ability to walk in the spiritlands, a world where the dead wait for judgment or to be reborn, where they find heaven or hell depending on their belief. The spiritlands, or ghostlands is the afterlife. Think of this more like purgatory, a gateway in between heaven and hell. As a shamaness Aisling bargains for answers and help from these dead.
Aisling lives during a time after The Last War that was started by religious zealots who wanted to cleanse mankind. The date is unknown, but I would say it is a hundred years or so after the war has ended. Because of this war the supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and demons have come out of the shadows. These creatures of myth have taken over the night and because of it, humans lock themselves away in their homes after the sun sets. The United States is no longer what it was. The country, or at least California, is run by martial law. The Church, which is made up of a group of very powerful humans have total control of the remaining human population. The Church needs Aisling’s services and if she doesn’t do what they want, they may kill her and her foster family.
Aisling takes her spirit guardian and pet ferret Aziel with her and will go to Oakland. The only person she can trust for the moment is Father Ursu, a priest who works for the Church. He really does seem to care for her well being. Perhaps it is because he needs her safe and whole for what he has in store for her? Aisling is given shelter and money to buy precious commodities like food. If she excels at the services expected of her, she can keep the house and remain in Oakland in safe keeping under the watchful eye of the Church.
An important woman by the name of Elena has disappeared. They need Aisling to find her either alive or if her soul has left and entered into the spiritlands. When Ailsing returns to the spiritlands she sees some dark-robed men wearing goat heads about to sacrifice Elena. Aisling has no choice but to summon a demon to stop them. She calls for Zurael en Caym, son of the dark prince. Because she has summoned Zurael she can command him at will.
Zurael saves Elena by killing the goat headed men. But that means he is at Aisling’s beck and call until she decide she is done with him. Zurael is not just a demon but also a Djinn. He hates Aisling because she has such power over him. When the time is right, he will kill her. The thought of being tied to a human, a child of mud, as he thinks of her is unfathomable. Zurael finds out that the dark priest that he killed was trying to summon an entity from the spiritlands and make it human. Because he stopped this sacrifice Zurael is given an important task where he must retrieve an ancient stone tablet that has been lost to the Djinn. In order for Zurael to search Oakland for this tablet he must remain with Aisling. For the time being he won’t kill her.
Aisling is not sure how to handle the present situation she is in. She has accomplished what she was set out to do, but now she has a beautiful and powerful demon male basically as her slave. All she wishes for is to have her old life back, but now that is no longer possible. And when Elena comes to Aisling asking her to investigate her kidnapping, Aisling again has no choice; she must accept. Part of it has to do with the type of person Aisling is. She wants to help those around her even if she may endanger her life. What Elena wants Aisling to do may kill her because she must venture into a world filled with kinky sex and drugs. The drug of choice is called Ghost. A person takes Ghost and will find themselves in the spiritlands to enjoy the kinky S&M type pleasures that await them there. Elena was ghosting when she was taken and wants to know why. The spirits that walk in the spirtlands also want Elena to find those who are creating Ghost and kill them.
Aisling may be able to go back and forth into the spiritlands, but she is still fragile on the mortal plane. Zurael becomes very protective of Aisling and begins to care for her because of her giving nature. Something as simple as Aisling sharing her meager food with Aziel and himself really touches Zurael. Zurael will aid her in her quest. Soon they are waking a fine line between the dead and the living. Something more powerful then the Church wants Aisling. Aisling and Zurael have entered into a very dark world where reality and fantasy become one. And Aisling’s fantasies are become more real because Zurael is hungry for Aisling’s tender flesh where he can give her endless pleasures in his arms.
Ghostland is a complex and descriptive world filled with desperation and the unholy needs people have. Jory Strong really does a great job with her writing. Her world building is great and the story is intense. Not only is there a paranormal element, but there is fantasy and some really hot sex scenes between Aisling and Zurael. Some may call this an Urban Fantasy because of the setting, but this is more of an Urban Fantasy Romance. Perhaps even an Urban Fantasy Erotica. Aisling is a worthy heroine but she is very different from those other types of heroines in the past Urban Fantasies I have read. She is a bit too quite and broken in a way. Every trip to the ghostlands drains her. Some may think she is a victim because of the situation she has been placed in, and if Zurael wasn’t there to save her, Aisling may have not survived. I wouldn’t say Aisling is weak but she comes across scarred and emotionally unattached, as if she doesn’t know how to interact with those around her.
Zurael is definitely an alpha male who looks out for Aisling’s best interests, but when it comes to sex, he pushes her to the limits. From the moment he meets Aisling, he is all over her. The lust he has for Aisling is intense and she feels the same way. I was a bit surprised by how quickly Aisling was open to having sex with Zurael because she keeps everyone at a distance. But Zurael is larger than life and won’t be ignored.
I assumed Aisling was a virgin but the first time she was with Zurael you would think otherwise. There is a great deal of hard nipples and wet panties for Aisling. Aisling must have gone through a great deal of panties in a few days because they were always wet. That is mentioned many times so we won’t be able to forget her need for Zurael. Zurael is hard all over and even in the sign of danger he wants Aisling. These two have a great deal of sex and is the typical fare with a great deal of shuddering and thrusting. Even though Zurael doesn’t kiss Aisling on the mouth there is still a lot of tongue action on his end. He can’t kiss Aisling on the mouth because he is afraid he will lose his soul to her if she takes in his breath. But he is more than fine with enjoying some 69 action with her, that oh so naughty scene that pops up from time to time in romance. For some reason I find that act much more intimate than kissing. I guess someone stealing your breath is more serious than both drinking in each other’s sex fluids.
Ghostland is a strong debut by Jory Strong, who has a background in writing erotic romance. I would say that Jory is one author to watch for 2009. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading Ghostland even with all the mention of lusting and weeping body parts. Urban fantasy fans will want to give this one a try. (April, Berkley)
Final Grade: B
Ghostland is the first book in the Ghostland World series. The next book, Spider-Touched will be published in August.
Here is a sneak peek:
Held prisoner by humans, his angelic memory and power lost because of the sigil-inscribed collar around his neck, Tir dreams of freedom and hungers for vengeance. He’s sworn he’ll never lie with a mortal, but when Araña removes his shackles and helps him escape his captivity, she melts his icy control and leaves him burning with desire. She’s a temptation he can’t resist—an unknowing enemy who might well enslave him more thoroughly than the chains he’s worn for centuries.