May 30 2011 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Vicki Pettersson’s The Neon Graveyard (May 31, 2011)

The Neon Graveyard by Vicki PetterssonVicki Petersson
The Neon Graveyard (Signs of the Zodiac, Book 6)
Harper Voyager, May 31, 2011, $7.99

Once she was a soldier for the Light, the prophesied savior who would decide the outcome of the eternal conflict raging unseen in the dark corners of her glittering hometown. Now Joanna Archer is just another mortal—still born of an impossible union of Shadow and Light . . . still hunted by both—and carrying the unborn child of a lover held captive by a depraved demon goddess. Joining forces with a band of rogue Shadow agents, Joanna’s ready to storm the stronghold of her demonic foe, risking everything to enter this ghastly, godforsaken realm where the price of admission is her eternal soul. Because in a world that has stripped her of her power, identity, and fortune, Joanna has nothing left to lose—except her baby, her future, and the epic war poised to consume the city.

I’ll admit it. I was She-Ra more than once for Halloween when I was a kid. Even at 8 years old, I was drawn to strong empowering women. So, it’s no surprise to me that one of my favorite parts of Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac series is the power she gives her women. Sure, there are men throughout the books who are big and strong, but women hold all the power, the answers, and decide the fate of the outcomes.

Men were generally direct in dealing out treachery, but a woman’s bag of tricks was an endless supply of smoke and mirrors; strengths disguised as weaknesses, agendas hidden three layers down. Infinite flexibility that, if mastered, could be applied to everything: appearance, identity, home.”

Pettersson’s latest release, The Neon Graveyard, is the series finale, so it’s no surprise that her female characters are even more important this time around. Pettersson thinks so fondly of her ladies, in fact, that she’s even gone so far as to create an alternate universe for them. “Midheaven was a woman’s world, entirely separate from our own, and fueled by the soul energy of the men trapped there.” See, men are good for something there. Midheaven is a place where the saying “women rule” is not an expression, it’s a fact.

“As the men sweated in the pseudo gambling hall, atrophying in body and soul, the women lived at the top of a winding staircase where they created their own versions of nirvana. Four doors, four rooms representing the basic elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Each room was a tiny paradise created for and by women who acted as goddesses there, indulging in pleasures both exotic and plain, entire micro-worlds filled with the energy derived from a man’s soul.”

But a women’s unforgiving strength isn’t showcased only in the alt-world, Midheaven, it’s proven time and time again throughout the story in the “real” world. Pettersson balances a woman’s fragile but fierce psyche perfectly. She proves over and over again that when a woman chooses love; chooses to give someone a part of their heart, it doesn’t make them less, it makes them formidable. I think the fact that Pettersson exposes this balance all throughout the story, is why her female characters work; why they don’t come off hard, but rather believable.

"Tekla told me long ago that it was my fate to sacrifice myself for life’s greatest gift. I didn’t know what it meant then, but it makes sense now. She meant love. She meant Felix, and I’ll do so gladly, and do you know why?”

I shook my head.

“Because Felix has already given me the greatest gift of my life. He chose me. I was the kairos {ruler} of his heart, see? And every woman, no matter how strong, has the core need…to be the one. To be chosen.”

Does it make you weaker to admit that you need something; need someone? Or does it make you ultimately more powerful to recognize that desire, and embrace the advantages it can offer? Personally, each time I finish one of Pettersson’s books I feel empowered. I love how she calls to my inner superhero. It allows me to become She-Ra all over again . . . even as an adult!

Pettersson’s strong women are just one of the reasons why her series is one of my all-time favorites. She also dabbles in diabolical plots, villainous villans, and love; true love. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did.


Jessica Turner reviews Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, and Sc-Fi Romances on her site The Spinecracker and is a trained chef who lives in San Diego with her very Irish husband.

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Jessica Turner
2. TheSpinecracker
*passes you a tissue*
Me too. May have to form a support group or something.
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