College is expensive, and many of us have had to take some odd summer jobs to pay for it. A few summers, I ended up counting mosquitoes in a government lab. Very strange, but not nearly as strange as the job seventeen-year-old Amber takes in Jayde Scott's excellent novel, "A Job From Hell."
Amber plans to study marketing at university. She has student loans lined up to cover tuition and fees, but if she plans to have money for expenses, she needs something else. It boils down to doing double-shifts at McDonald's, or taking a lucrative summer position with a reclusive Scottish businessman named Aidan McAllister.
So Amber packs up, and heads to the wilds of Scotland, ready to start her new job as a housekeeper. It bothers her a little bit that she's not very domestic, but she figures her brother, Dallas, just wrote one hell of a recommendation letter.
The McAllister mansion is huge and spotless...and almost devoid of people. The first day, she finally meets her boss only late in the evening. She serves him a teriyaki fry-up. He looks at it dubiously, and says he prefers to eat alone in his room.
Aidan McAllister looks eighteen--a very hot eighteen, Amber notes. He lives there with his obnoxious younger brother, Kieran, and their friend Clare.
One night, Amber joins her brother on an odd quest. Dallas says he found a hut in the forest, and there are jewels in there. He wants Amber to help him steal them; he'd sell the jewels, and their whole family would be rich beyond belief. That night, after Dallas wanders off to take a leak, Amber finds the hut, searches through an odd mud pit, and locates the jewels. She stashes them in her backpack, then runs back through the woods--which seem to be alive with menace suddenly--and her brother drives her home.
From that day forward, things around the McAllister mansion seem to change. Some very peculiar people show up to talk, including one especially brash girl with fiery red hair and what appear to be--but certainly couldn't really be--tiny horns??
All too soon, Amber finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old battle between supernatural factions, and it turns out those stones she burgled from that little hut earned her a ticket to The Underworld. She has vampires, the Shadow Queen, even Lucifer's daughter pulling her strings. The only question is, will she find her way out of The Underworld? And is her hot boss turning out to be far more than a boss?
Unlike most YA Paranormal books, I couldn't tell right-off where "A Job From Hell" was going (Finally, a YA Paranormal book without a new kid starting at a high school!). We start off hearing the story in Amber's voice, which fills us in on her relatively normal past--middle-class parents, douchebag ex-boyfriend who "just wants to take some time off," etc.
Once we get firmly established with how Amber sees her strange new job, the narrative starts switching back and forth between Amber and Aidan. They like each other, but for different reasons, and Aidan has a hell of a big secret he doesn't quite know how to share with this mortal girl she loves.
"A Job From Hell" is the first of six installments in Jayde Scott's "Ancient Legends" series, and it works not only as a wonderfully told story, but as a gentle introduction to the odd supernatural world Amber has unwittingly joined. Amber makes a wonderful lead, in that she doesn't suddenly go all Harry Potter and throw herself into the world of magic. She seems to accept the various paranormal activities going on around her, but once her mission to The Underworld is over, she just wants to leave Scotland's weirdness behind, and go back to London to work at McDonald's.
My favorite character is Lucifer's daughter, Cass. When Kieran starts calling her "Beelzebub" and razzing her about not having any powers, she shoots back that she gets them when she turns 18. She was my favorite character in the book, just for that sort of sass.
Indeed, the second novel in the "Ancient Legends" series focuses on Cass (I've always had a thing for feisty redheads). If it's as good as "A Job from Hell," I'm certain it will be an awesome, interesting ride.
Many authors seem to get all giddy when they create their paranormal mythologies. One thing I liked about Jayde Scott's presentation is that she shows control. She's obviously not just Googling supernatural creatures to throw into the mix. There are rules, ancient codes that bind these various creatures, and repercussions for those who violate them. As with any group ostensibly overseen by a governing body, there are serious rule-breakers--what's a governed society without rogue elements? This structure gives us, as new readers, a firmer grasp on how this world operates.
"A Job from Hell" is the first of six novels in the "Ancient Legends" series. I can't wait to move on to book two, to see what hellish delights await.