Aria Knight has an unusual set of skills: she will hold back the hounds of Hell so that you can fly toward the Pearly Gates, and she will wipe your slate clean so you don’t become karma’s bitch…for a price.
A sin eater has to make a living in today’s world somehow.
But when she’s called in the dead of night to perform her rite for a recluse billionaire, she stumbles upon a murder scene, and the evidence points to her.
In an attempt to clear her name and uncover the true culprit, Aria is forced to team up with a private investigator who’s possessed by three spirits and a handsome wizard who would rather see all sin eaters like Aria go extinct.
Aria knows her job is never easy, but now, it’s become downright deadly.
SIN EATER is the first book of the Aria Knight Chronicles by USA Today bestselling author Samantha LaFantasie and Alesha Escobar, author of the bestselling Gray Tower Trilogy.
Aria would die tonight.
If Hessa didn’t unlock her damn door and let her in, that would certainly be the case. Aria’s back stiffened when she heard the faint but distinctive howls from the Hounds of Hell. Their shrieks always struck her as a cross between wolves wailing at the moon and jackals whining into the night.
Hessa finally opened the door and stood at the threshold, sizing her up and taking a long drag from her cigarette. A tear, mingled with ruined mascara, trailed down her cheek. “Thanks for coming, Aria. This was the last thing Mom asked for, so…”
“I understand. May I come in?” Aria nearly knocked her over trying to slip inside. The howling grew louder. They were down the street, and Aria’s time was running out.
“Yeah.” Hessa rolled her eyes at Aria’s terse attitude, but she’d do the same if she could hear what came their way.
“You should place a ward around the house.” Aria speed-walked down the hall.
“Okay…” Hessa’s voice trailed off.
She wished she had been called sooner. If the hellhounds made it to the dead woman before she did, then she’d have to watch them tear the old woman’s soul to shreds before dragging her off to the abyss.
Aria wrinkled her nose at the smell of wet fur and garbage. A small dog somewhere in the house barked a few times. As if drawn like a magnet to metal, she guided herself to the last room, toward the deceased. A short, white-haired woman in a long-sleeved gown lay in repose on a bed. Her arms were crossed just below her chest, with her hands meeting in a clasp.
Aria’s lips pressed into a thin line. She didn’t have time for this. She had told Hessa over the phone not to move or position the body. She quickly took the dead woman’s right hand and extended it, placing it to her right side. She did the same for the left hand, so that nothing sat on or near the deceased’s chest. She felt the moment Hessa cast her warding spell around the house. It felt like a stab of tension in her chest, the same type people felt when walking downstairs and missing a step.
“What was her name?” Aria asked, when Hessa joined her in the back room. She needed to know this in case she needed to grab the spirit’s attention.
“Beautiful name. Do you have the bread?” Aria grabbed a rickety stool from the left corner of the room and brought it over. She sat down next to the bed. The hellhounds circled the house, probably salivating over their prey. Aria could hear their gleeful snarls at the prospect of devouring another soul. If she weren’t careful, they would tear into her as well. It wasn’t unheard of for them to go after sin eaters.
Hessa jabbed her cigarette into an ashtray on the nightstand and then unraveled a fresh-baked loaf of bread. Steam rose from the bread, and Hessa used the towel that was covering the small loaf to protect her hands as she transferred it to her mother’s chest.
As a sign of respect, and also as a way to mark the beginning of the Final Rite, Aria inclined her head in a slight bow, mentally offering up an ancient prayer of blessing. She was the very last call, the end of the line for many. Probably in some ancient desert Monastery or buried in the Vatican archives, there was a dusty old manuscript with a footnote, speaking of the loophole offered by sin eaters. Most would ask for her if they couldn’t reach a priest, or as extra “insurance” after receiving Anointing of the Sick.
Aria raised her right hand, palm facing forward, revealing the birthmark that identified her as a sin eater. She lowered her hand, but kept it suspended in mid-air just above the bread. She already felt the pulsating power of the S-shaped mark on her hand that begged to let the flame emerge. It happened whenever she began a sin eating ritual, and the first time her birthmark erupted into a large flame, she fell on her behind and tried to smother it with a handkerchief. Not exactly a move that would instill confidence in a client entrusting their loved one’s soul to her.
Familiar with the work of both Alesha Escobar and Samantha LaFantasie, it was a real treat to see their talents blended in this story. I was enthralled immediately by Aria Knight, her powers, and her conflicted feelings about them. I’ll be interested to see how she fares in her next adventure. The fast paced story is set in a world where wizards could easily be your next-door-neighbors or public servants. The paranormal is all perfectly normal—no more but also no less problematic than a multi-ethnic society with citizens from different cultures and religions.
Wow. Just wow.
In this novel we follow three characters: Aria, Jacob, and Harry. Aria is a sin eater who wants to find her mother in order to potentially not be a sin eater. Jacob is a wizard working in the Mayor’s office trying to avert a war and wizarding registry. Harry is a human hit with a curse that allows spirits (not all of whom are good) to control his body. They are thrust together in unforseen circumstances in what becomes an imaginative supernatural fiction.
It was certainly an interesting concept to have humans and supernatural beings live together in a world where nothing is hidden. I know, it does almost sound like an X-Men type of deal, but it’s not. In this novel, wizards and supernatural folk don’t try to hide from the outside world, unlike in X-Men where they hide their abilities.
I loved the authors’ take on well known supernatural classics. Wizards have factions and not all can cast magic. Some are Loremasters (aka historians), some are mind readers, etc. Plus vampires are born from the souls of witches/wizards who fie without a sin eating ritual. Pretty cool concept in my book.