Monday, January 23, 2012

Key of Solomon (Relic Defender #1) by Cassiel Knight

Key of Solomon (Relic Defender #1) 
by Cassiel Knight

Trust no one…except the one who walks in the dark.

Relic Defender, Book 1

Anthropology PhD candidate Lexi Harrison never bares it all when she belly dances for a strip club crowd. She doesn’t have to—she’s that good. Every performance earns money toward her degree, and restores the sense of power that her painful childhood ripped away.

Something is different about tonight. A man whose silver gaze seems to touch her skin beneath her veils. When a rowdy customer crosses the line, he comes to her rescue with the speed of a falcon—complete with wings.

Mikos Tyomni has never seen anyone dance the raqs sharqi like Lexi. Trust his tormentor, Archangel Michael, to put him in close contact with the cause of his downfall: a mortal woman. Particularly this mortal woman. The Defender. He has only thirty days to win her trust before Hell’s deadliest demons attempt the mother of all prison breaks.

No matter how sexy the messenger is, Lexi’s career plans don’t include some crazy idea that she’s the last line of defense against the forces of evil. Until her university mentor’s murder leaves her holding the key to Hell. And fighting a losing battle against a passion with the unholy power to bring down Heaven…

Warning: This title contains a dark and sexy fallen angel, bad-ass demons, a heroine with kick-assitude tossed together with mythology, archeology and a shape-shifting rock with a fondness for the gangsters of the 1920s.

My Review:

Fallen Angel? Sign Me Up! This book was a joy to read, with its strong characters you will no doubt fall in love with as soon as start reading. It's complete with a sexy (Drool worthy) fallen angel Mikos, and a heroine you would not want to cross. The plot flowed, and the pace was fast. The writing style and setting were amazing. I like how the author threw in enough known facts into this tempting read, to make it believable. I also really like this cover. I was torn between a 5 star rating (Would Re-Read it) and a 4 star (Loved it)... so I would settle for a 4.5. It was a great escape read. 

Rating 4.5


Clad only in her bra and panties, her hair bouncing wetly against her neck, Lexi padded back into her bedroom. She picked up her discarded clothes then automatically put her hands into the right pocket of her jeans. At the stinging pain, she hissed and jerked her hand from her pocket bringing out a small white card, which fluttered to the floor. 
A freaking paper cut. With her aching finger tucked into her mouth, she bent and picked up the card. She frowned.
Oh yeah, the business card Gary gave her. And the one from her professor’s office. She touched a finger to the surface. Thin black lines formed on the surface, shaping into a familiar, if unknown, sigil. She pulled her hand back. The lines held for a few seconds then faded. Damn it, both cards were the same. 
“Hiya, doll!” 
Caught off guard, Lexi jumped, the card fluttering from her fingers. Again. Her lips thinned. 
The grating voice was unfortunately familiar and totally unwelcome. With both hands on her hips, she turned around. Rocky stood on her coffee table, humor glinting in his silver eyes. Good grief. Was he wearing a zoot suit? 
“Fantastic. Just what I need. I thought you were a twisted figment of my imagination.” 
“Nope. Sorry to disappoint you.” 
Yeah, right. The trace of laughter in his sandpaper voice said otherwise.
“Although, I’ll give you twisted.” His lips twitched. “But a figment of your imagination? Nah.” 
Rocky tilted his head and slanted her an admiring look. “Did I catch you at a bad time?” He gestured at her. “Not that I’m not enjoying the show, but don’t you think you should put some clothes on?” 
She jerked her head down. The semi-transparent silken bra and bikini-cut panties provided protection in only the most dubious sense. Shooting him a withering glare, she stomped to the dresser and yanked out a pair of black jeans and white thermal hoodie. 
How did one go about incinerating rock, anyway? 
After slipping into the clothes, she slammed the drawer shut. Casting a glance back at Rocky, she said, “What the hell do you want?” 
Ignoring her question, he winked and walked over to the edge of her table and peered at the cover of a National Geographic. 
“Hey, can I borrow this? I haven’t seen this issue.” He looked up at Lexi, his silver eyes brimming with anticipation. 
“What. The hell. Do you. Want?” she repeated, a silken thread of warning in her voice. 
Rocky placed a small hand over his forehead and staggered back. “Is that any way to welcome your guide?”
Pretending to swoon, he lurched against her two-foot high black granite statue of Sekhmet, an ancient Egyptian goddess with the head of a lioness and the body of a woman. 
Lexi gasped and darted for the statue as it wobbled, then tilted. She righted the figurine and glared at Rocky. 
“Sorry, toots.” Suddenly his hand shot out and grabbed the amulet, which had swung free when she bent over. “Hmm, what’s this?” 
She’d forgotten about the necklace. At the same moment she lifted her hand to take it from his grasp, Rocky jerked, let go of the amulet and skittered back. One foot went off the edge of the coffee table, but he managed to stay upright. 
“Damnosa.” Eyes wide, he stared up at Lexi, silver eyes huge in a washed out gray face. “Mikos didn’t tell me you have the Nativitas.” He spoke in a hushed tone charged with awe and respect. 
Surprised by his reaction, Lexi eyed him in confusion. “What?” She held the amulet in her hand. “This?” 
He hadn’t noticed it before? When he was drooling over her body? 
“Yeah, that.” 
“What’s the big deal?” 
“The big deal? You don’t know what this is?” He cocked his head. “I guess you don’t,” he murmured. “It’s a rebirth stone.” 
“Oh. That’s what it’s called.” Lexi looked down at the amulet. Her brow wrinkled. “A rebirth stone?” 
She tapped her fingers on the table. “So, guide, answer this. Why me?” 
“Sorry, can’t help you there. That’s for Mikos to explain.” 
“You can’t help me?” She frowned. “What kind of guide are you?” 
He shifted his stance then pulled at his ear, keeping his eyes averted. “Sorry, not my story to tell. Ask Mikos.” 
“Since I don’t plan to see Mikos ever again, I won’t be able to ask him anything, so why don’t you just tell me?” 
Lexi stomped into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. She twisted off the cap and took a deep drink. The cold, slightly bitter taste filled her mouth. She rarely drank—this six-pack had been in her fridge for six months. But this last day deserved beer. Maybe three beers. 
When Lexi turned to face Rocky again, she wasn’t surprised to see he had done one of his blinking things and now stood on her kitchen counter. 
“Can’t tell you.” He tilted his head. “What do you mean you won’t be seeing Mikos again?” The tire-on-stone tone of his voice revealed disapproval. 
“Just what I said.” 
“You have to. He’s the one who can help you. Train you.” 
“Not interested.” God, she was getting tired of explaining herself. How many times did she have to say no? 
Rocky stared at her, speechless. She hoped. Probably few things kept the shapeshifter quiet. She’d only seen him twice but could tell he liked the sound of his own voice. Odd, but she found the little man appealing. Like an exotic pet—strange and unusual, but highly entertaining. 
Finally, he shook his head. “Bad idea, Alexandria.” 
She winced. Did he just call her by her full name? “Like I told Mikos, my name isn’t Alexandria. It’s Lexi.” 
“Lexi,” he tried it out, and then nodded. “I like it.” 
“I’m so glad you approve." 
She barely kept the twitch of her lips from becoming a smile. Taking her beer, she headed back to the living room. She started to step over a small square of white on the carpet but then stopped. Oh, yeah. The business card. 
“Whatcha’ got there?” Back on the coffee table, Rocky stretched his neck to try and see what she had picked up. 
Nosy bugger. “It’s a business card.” She flopped onto the couch and held out the card. “I found it in my professor’s office today.” 
Rocky took the card. His lips pursed then he nodded. “Sure, that’s Mikos’s card. I’ve seen tons of them.” He met her gaze. Curiosity glowing in the gray depths. 
“Are you talking about Professor Xaviera?” 
If Lexi hadn’t been sitting by that time, she’d have fallen to the floor. Sonofabitch. She hadn’t missed the import of what Rocky unknowingly admitted. 
“You knew Professor Xaviera?” 
“Yeah, Mikos does too. The Prof is a really decent guy.” 
“Don’t you mean was a decent guy?” 
Rocky cocked his head, his expression confused. “Was?” 
“He’s dead. Murdered. Two days ago.” Lexi snatched the card out of Rocky’s unresisting hands. “And I found this in his office.” 
“Yes, dead. As in not breathing. Dead. Someone came close to cutting his head off with a freaking sword.” 
Rocky’s dark-gray skin paled, turning ashen. “A sword?” 
Lexi rolled her eyes and stood. “I thought you were a rock, not a parrot. Stop repeating everything I say. Yes, a sword.” 
Leaving him speechless, she stalked over to the closet and grabbed a lightweight jacket. In her bedroom, she slipped on a pair of ankle boots with a low heel. Slamming her sanjiegun, a three-section staff into its holder at her hip, she headed for the front door. So much for food. 
She looked back at Rocky. The shapeshifter hadn’t moved. While his skin was no longer ashen gray, his silver gaze was shadowed with an expression of worry. 
“You coming?” she asked. “I need directions.” 
“Where are you going?” 
This time, the shapeshifter’s eyes widened in alarm.

Author Interview:

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Eeek! Is this the dreaded bio stuff? I always have a hard time with this since I wish I was more interesting. I live in Oregon with my husband of almost 21 years (has it really been that long? And he’s still alive? A miracle.) in a house on just under 4 acres with way too much yard work and grass to mow. It’s a good thing I like gardening because that’s what I do a good part of the summer. I have three Shih Tzu females I love to pieces. I have a day job working for the County I live in. It’s okay as day jobs go, but isn’t where my heart is.

Now for the stuff I really like to talk about. Key of Solomon is my first major epublished book. I published a futuristic romance in 2007 with a smaller epublisher. I’m excited to have published with Samhain and hope to have a long career with them. In February, the book I sold to the small epublisher will be re-released by my brand new publisher, Lyrical Press, with a new cover and updated story. Almost feels brand new to me which is fun. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with a sexy spy and a mysterious man with a secret that could shatter her world. You can see the cover and read the opening at my website,

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve been a writer ever since I can remember. This, I’m afraid, isn’t as far back as most writers seem to remember. The first time I put pen to paper to write fiction was after reading The Flame and The Flower by Rosemary Rogers. At the time, I was in high school and thought being able to write such a terrific story must be the most amazing thing in the world. Turned out it was; however, I wasn’t the writer. I still kept writing. But not fiction. I wrote for newsletters, drafted publications in the military, training outlines, business letters and more. Everything but fiction. It wasn’t until AOL came along that I found fiction again. Actually, it was a combination of AOL, Moondust and Madness by Janelle Taylor (futuristic romance) and a dream. After I read Moondust, I fell in love with futuristic romance and started telling myself a story in my head until I went to sleep at night. I “wrote” the whole first chapter in my mind and then one night, while my husband was stationed in Guam, I didn’t stop writing the story after I feel asleep. I remember the next morning waking up and knowing I had a story and that I had to write it. At the same time, I discovered the romance section of AOL and knew this was my dream. So, I put fingers to computer and wrote my first book, Written in the Stars which I still have and no, not sure I plan on publishing. It didn’t matter though. I was hooked on writing romance and have been hooked ever since.

What surprised you the most about the writing/publishing process?

How much I enjoyed researching! I relied on internet and library research plus my own library is now filled with all kinds of reference books. They look so pretty sitting on my shelves. Happy sigh. As far as what I researched, the first thing I did was find and read all I could on angels and demons then the legends of King Solomon, which the book is loosely based on. Before doing the research, I knew of King Solomon and stories of his treasure but I hadn’t realized he was said to work magic and control demons by virtue of a ring God gave him. I found all this fascinating which became a bit of a problem when I spent more time on research than writing.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I wish I was more organized than I am. I’m a pantser with maybe some very light plotting. Sometimes, I have a general idea and I definitely know the hero/heroine. Everything else just comes. I have tried plotting, but then I write and it’s more stressful to try and stay on the plot then letting my imagination flow.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I think this answer is going to completely depend on the reader. For me, as a reader, I like plot-driven stories. I like there to be lots going on and really don’t need to have characters sitting around contemplating relationships. I have a dear friend who writes character-driven stories and it’s all about emotion. I want emotion in mine, especially love, but I want something to happen. A lot of something if I can get away with it. Some readers read to learn something about the human condition. I just want to be entertained. This is why I tend to gravitate toward books and movies with lots of things being blown up. This is why I say readers determine the most important elements. Now, I do think writers and publishers need to work together to put a clean product on the shelf but otherwise, all we authors can do is write the best book we can and hope we’ll find readers who love it.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

The heroine, Lexi, is a lonely archeology student seeking to forget her painful past. Against her will, she is swept into a fierce battle between good and evil and must team up with sexy Mikos, a fallen angel on the path to redemption, to find King Solomon’s legendary book of magic to save the human race.

In Twitter Fashion use 140 characters or less, sum Key of Solomon for us.

A kick-ass heroine, sexy fallen angel and bad-ass demons battle to decide the fate of the world.

How did you come up with a story that was such a whirl wind of events?

Well, it's been a while and the story has gone through several incarnations, but what I remember that put the spark for this story was the now defunct Silhouette Bombshell line. I'd written one futuristic romance targeted for that line because I love heroines with kick-assitude (hence the tag line) and when that was finished, I wanted to write about a hurting woman and a fallen angel - another subject I found interesting. Plus, I was watching Tomb Raider and Relic Hunter and really thought about how to combine the two. It didn't actually work out that way - the story is light on Tomb Raider and Relic Hunter elements, but I did write about angels and demons which I also wanted to do – long before they became popular. Oh, and I wanted to mix mystical historical details as well and Egypt. So, basically, I had a soup of wonderful ideas and Relic Defender series is how I combined them, with Key of Solomon as the first book. Further books in the series allow me to play with more events which has been absolute fun.

How long did it take you to write it, and did you have any writer’s block along the way?

Sigh. It took much longer than I wanted. Mostly because I had to keep redoing the first chapter. I just could not get one I liked. Or, rather, I wrote ones I liked but they just didn’t show the book well, especially in contests. Even after I finished, I kept going back to redo. Ended up with quite a few discarded first chapters. I have writer’s block all the time – usually of my own making and a fall-out from being a pantser. I just keep pushing and pushing and writing and writing until stuff comes out. And if you’ve ever heard, “The more you write, the easier it is”?, it’s true, so true. I try to write something every day related to storytelling. If I don’t, if there is too many days between writing, it’s like starting all over again. That’s where writing block (for me) comes from.

Will we be seeing a following book to this stories?

Actually, I’m not quite sure. I have at least three. Book 2, The Death Skull, is in progress and scheduled to come out next August. Book 3 is outlined and I know the story. I haven't thought much beyond that. Yet. I love the world I've created and would enjoy staying there. I don't foresee getting tired of it and there are certainly enough story ideas that it could keep going. I hope the readers will tell me whether they want the series to continue. I would certainly enjoy continuing to write it. In fact, if readers want to get a taste of book two, they can visit my blog site specifically set up to launch Relic Defender.

How did you come up with the character Lexi?

I’ve always been fascinated with history and often wonder if I’d really known about archeology as I was trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up if that’s what I would have ended up doing. Because I was enamored of Tomb Raider, Relic Hunter and movies featuring treasure hunts, I knew that’s what I wanted my heroine to be. And by choosing this career for her, I got to do a lot of research into ancient history and learn archeology.

I always must ask, If you could pick one actor to portray Mikos on the big screen who would it be and why? 

I’ve never thought about this but now that I have, man, this is tough. My first thought was Mel Gibson – but younger – Mad Max days. I love his face – it’s strong and attractive with great character. But, in thinking about an actor who really epitomes Mikos’s traits, I’d have to say Paul Bettany (Legion & Priest). There’s just something about him – he has this serene strength I love, and that’s how I see Mikos.

Was there anything you find particularly challenging when writing this book?

Getting it sold. I loved this story and enjoyed writing it. But the first 10-15 pages were just not resonating with agents/editors. So, I redid them. Time and time and time and time again. Until I was sick of redoing them. I just couldn’t find the right beginning. Even this day, despite it being published and getting great reviews, I’m just not sure the beginning works. For me, at any rate. Luckily, my editor liked it and readers seem to as well.

What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of your finished book?

What version? Actually, the cover you now see was the final cover after going back and forth. The first cover I saw was quite lovely and the background was very Egyptian which I loved. However, the hero was wearing some kind of leather skirt and pretty naked. I thought, oh no, this is not a historical. Back to the second version and that was a gorgeous guy with a small scrap of something covering, um, just THAT part of him and he was standing with one leg up, posing. Yikes! Still looked historical but I was sure my readers were going to think it’s an erotic and it most certainly is not. Took a few more back and forth. When I opened the email with this cover, well, I think I did some dancing. I was so excited and even now, I get a little thrill when I look at that cover. Samhain took very good care of me, didn’t they?

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Author Guest Post

Since Key of Solomon was released, I’ve had people ask me why mythology and archeology? What led me to write a book with these elements?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve devoured mythology. Before I knew better, I thought Greek and Roman mythology with some Viking thrown in was the only mythology that existed. As a teenager, I think I read every story and knew all of the major Gods and Goddesses and a lot of the minor ones. So, when paranormal started to take wing, I knew I’d found a place I could indulge in my love of mythology. When I first conceived the idea of this story, I knew I wanted to work in some kind of mythology with paranormal elements but I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing (meaning no vampires or werewolves and, despite their popularity now, demons/angels hadn’t taken off by then).

During my research into that elusive “something different”, I discovered the mythology surrounding King Solomon. I was raised on the Bible and knew all about Solomon. Or, I thought I did. I was so intrigued with the notion that he was supposed to be a magic user and had a ring given to him by God that allowed Solomon to control and compel demons. And his temple? The stories say it was built by these same demons. Key of Solomon just took off from there. And I loved writing the scene where he is compelling the demons into the bronze jar.

Archeology was easy as I think I was an archeologist or explorer in another life. I’d always loved history, much more than I love the present. It’s funny, because I like the future too. Or at least, envisioning what the future might look like. For the past, I’m fascinated by what our ancestors accomplished with what they had. The beautiful and magnificent structures. Sure, we build magnificent structures now but there are few I would call beautiful. I think the past is much more appealing even with the lack of computers and assorted technologies. And since the assorted technologies have allowed me to armchair travel to the past, I get to indulge my love of history and archeology in my stories. In fact, the story I’m shopping now is fully immersed in archeology and Egyptian mythology with a tomb raiding heroine.

As a reader, do you find mythology and archeology interesting? If so, why intrigues you and what would you love to read more about?

One ecopy of Key of Solomon to TWO winners!

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moonglitter said...

What a great interview! First of all, I must say that this cover is beautiful! I love it! So yes, I'd say Samhain took VERY good care of you ♥ It must have been extremely frustrating for it taking so long to get this book published and sold. But from what I've read from your teaser, I think it'll be well worth it ;) I'm putting this on my list of must reads!

Beth Wright/Beth Fullaway said...

Sounds like a great book :D Well worth the wait :)

Victoria said...

Thanks for the great review, excerpt and interview. Got the whole shabang! Sounds like an excellent read!


Anonymous said...

Hi there! I missed coming back to this site yesterday to say hi but am here today. :) Thanks for all the terrific comments and empathy on the journey. It was definitely a long time coming for this book. Luckily, book 2 is going easier - it's coming out in August. :)

And if you are interested in an additional chance to win a paperback or electronic copy and are on Goodreads, come over to the group, eBook Giveaways and enter to win. Would love to see you there!

tears_of_fire said...

Ooooooh sounds different. :)

Krysykat said...

Wow, thanks for the great interview and teaser, not to mention the chance to win :)

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