Embraced by Darkness is a real improvement over Keri Arthur's earlier stories in
the "Riley Jensen, Guardian" series - there is a greater focus on plotting and characterization, less emphasis on sex to carry the story along.
Riley is on
an island holiday to recover from the events of the last year (and the last four books). She is contacted there by a member of her former pack, who demands that she look into the disappearance of a pack member, Adrienne, and threatens to hurt Riley and Rhoan's mother if she doesn't comply. Shortly afterward, the Directorate ask her to look into the strange murder of a woman who appears to have been torn limb from limb by her fiancé, and Riley discerns a supernatural element to the crime. She works on both investigations at the same time, also finding herself under attack from an unknown assailant, dealing with the memories that contact with her pack has dredged up, and trying to make sense of her relationship with Kellen, who wants to 'go solo' with her. Riley's not sure if she can commit to that and clearly has some feelings still for vampire Quinn, although he doesn't appear in person in this story.
The plotting here is excellent with good pacing and the variety of two simultaneous investigations. The caustic relationship between Riley and Salliane, 'The Cow,' adds some light relief
to a story with a fair amount of darkness. Riley's skills are growing and strengthening, and she discovers a new aspect of her nature in this book following the drug treatment that she received in the first installment. Her brother, Rhoan, features in this story as he helps Riley at the denouement when they uncover the evil behind a string of grisly deaths from the UK to Germany to Australia.
Embraced by Darkness relies far more on plot and characterization, particularly Riley's workaholic nature and her complete absorption in being a Guardian and how that plays out with her personal relationships, rather than sex,
making it a much stronger read and making Riley a more sympathetic character. It ends on a cliffhanger in Riley's personal life (although the major plot lines
are all completed) and makes me look forward to the next book. Although part of a series, all the relevant backstory
is given in a smooth, concise way, so this book will be easy to understand for a first-time reader despite the complex supernatural world and varied skills that the non-humans have. Embraced by Darkness is a great addition to the series and a book that will probably win this author new readers.