Series: Mageri

Guest Audio Review: Sterling by Dannika Dark

Posted June 3, 2016 by Jennifer in Book Review | , , | 8 Comments

Guest Audio Review: Sterling by Dannika DarkSterling by Dannika Dark
Series: Mageri #1
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Published by Tantor Audio on September 5th 2011
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Format: Audiobook
Length: 10 hrs
Source: Library
Audio | Goodreads

Zoë Merrick lived an ordinary life until the night she was brutally attacked. She narrowly escapes death, rescued by Adam Razor, an ex-soldier who offers her friendship and a place to stay. But something else is different. Zoë is unable to control an unexplainable energy coursing through her body.

Justus De Gradi is a man who can teach her that control. She meets him by chance - a man who's handsome, arrogant, and not entirely human. He reveals that she's a Mage - an immortal made of light, not magic. Zoë must now make a choice: Rebuild her life in the human world with the man who saved her, or live with Justus and learn how to use her extraordinary gifts. Justus has sworn an oath to protect her life, but can he guard her from the one man who has a right to claim it?

Zoë learns the price of freedom...and the value of loyalty.

Being a huge fan of The Seven Series by the fabulous author/narrator duo of Dannika Dark and Nicole Poole, and with that series now complete, I was thrilled to find that there was an entirely whole other predecessor series, the Mageri Series, waiting for my discovery. So with the Seven Series sadly over, I jumped right into listening to Sterling (the first book in the Mageri Series); and what a ride it was!

While the Mageri Series and the Seven Series take place in the same Urban Fantasy (UF) world (which Ms. Dark coins the “Mageriverse”), Sterling, to me, seems to take a much more descriptive approach to describing this unique UF world. Perhaps this is because, as Ms. Dark indicates on her website, the Mageri Series is meant to be read first.  However, in the Seven Series, outside of the primary shifter characters, you only get small glimpses of the creative and unusual magical beings that inhabit the Mageriverse. The Mageri Series, in turn, focuses on mages, which can be further subdivided into a multitude of different sub-types.  Therefore, listening to Sterling almost felt like the beginning of a completely new UF series.

Zoe Merrick wakes up after a terrible assault believing that she has died, but what she soon finds is even more perplexing.  Her appearance has changed, her senses are enhanced, and she seems to have a large current of energy surging through her.  She is clearly no longer human, though she doesn’t really quite seem to know what she is.

Fortunately, she is rescued by an ex-military officer, Adam Razor, who lost his sister to an equally inexplainable attack, and who seems to have had his own share of mysterious experiences.  But when it becomes clear that Adam, a mere human, cannot keep Zoe safe, a rival for Zoe’s protection emerges.

His name is Justus De Gradi, and though his arrogance and old-school ways leave much to be desired, Justus demonstrates the grave danger Zoe is in if she doesn’t learn the true nature of the being she has become He cautions her that she must learn to control her powers.  Though Justus reveals the name of what Zoe has become, a mage, the true extent of her new powers and the world she has become a part of is something that only a long-term of training in his guardianship can reveal.

Who will Zoe choose?  The man who rescued her and makes her feel alive again, or the one who promises to open up a whole new world to her?  Moreover, when her maker surfaces, can either Adam or Justus protect her from her sire, who though clearly an evil man with cruel intentions, is the only one whose claim is recognized by the Mageri government?

One thing that is worth noting, as you can hopefully tell from my description, is that this is not an easy UF world to decipher. Moreover, the way that Ms. Dark has written this story seems to magnify this effect. While this no doubt makes it somewhat trying on the listener, I believe that it also has the intent of placing the listener in the heroine’s shoes. The listener, like the heroine, is slowly learning how to live and cope in this new previously unknown supernatural world.  That said, sometimes I wished I had a crib sheet to help me speed up the process of putting this world in context from the start.  In fact, even now, after finishing this first book, I know that I have only scratched the surface of this background learning. However, as I started writing this review, I discovered that Ms. Dark has written, and included on her website, a very helpful “glossary” to help explain this universe. So now I feel like I will be better prepared to embark on to the next book in this series.

Another point of contention that I have noticed in some reviews is a feeling that this story is not only hard to follow, but also somewhat disjointed. And in some respects it is. A number of times we are carried from scene to scene meeting new characters and being introduced to new concepts and dynamics only to have the dynamics completely change again. I can only hope that this is more a factor of the complexity of the Mageri world and the whirlwind in which the heroine is introduced to it.  Therefore, my anticipation is that as the outline of this world is more laid out at the end of Sterling, that in subsequent books, this shifting effect will fade.

Definitely one of the highlights of the Mageri Series, as is the case in the Seven Series, is the expert narration by Nicole Poole.  Ms. Poole is one of my all-time favorite UF/PNR narrators. One of the things I admire the most about Ms. Poole’s performances are that she is able to create a unique, personality-specific voice for each and every one of the members of the large cast in the audiobooks she narrates. Sterling is no different. From Adam’s likeable hero voice to Justus’ authoritative country defying old-world accent, Ms. Poole’s characterizations are spot on.

Adding further credence to Ms. Poole’s talented narrator abilities is her facility with story pacing and ability to impart effect at the most crucial points of the story.  From the fast-paced action scenes to the mysterious UF revealing ones, Ms. Poole’s tone and pacing are perfectly matched to the mood and tone of the story that Ms. Dark has penned expertly bringing it to life.  The only reason I did not give Ms. Poole 5 stars, however, is that a few of the voices for the characters reminded me of the ones she used for other characters in The Seven Series.  And while I can not fault Ms. Poole (after all how many dozens of unique voices can I expect her to create?), it did have the rather strange effect of drawing me out of the story at times to ponder the similarities between some of the Mageri and Seven series characters.  For example, Justus sounds somewhat like Prince, from the Seven Series, and given each’s powerful hierarchical relative stations in each series (never mind their interactions with the heroine in the first book of the series) it caused me to start wondering if there are any other parallels that can be drawn.  Putting this strange effect aside, however, Ms. Poole’s narration was top-notch as always.

All in all, Sterling was not a bad start to a whole new world.  Whereas the beauty of the Seven series was in its remarkable simplicity and yet compelling multitude of complex characters, the Mageri series–well at least the debut novel Sterling–seems to be much more steeped in describing the highly complex, unique Urban Fantasy (UF) world of the Mageriverse with the primary focus being on the slow reveal of how that world works.  The premise and uniqueness of groundwork laid in Sterling holds a lot of promise and with such a talented author and narrator team, I for one can’t wait to continue exploring the Mageriverse in Book 2, Twist.

Review Breakdown
Overall: four-stars


About BJ

At BJ’s Reviews I post all kinds of romance book news, including cover reveals, release blitzes, blog tours and reviews for all types of romance novels in both written and audiobook format. You can find me on:




 a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Nicole Poole

Nicole Poole is a classically trained actor with equal passions for literature and improvisation. She has toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company, has been a member of the critically acclaimed Walter Thompson Orchestra for over fifteen years, and recently became a member of the Parisian groups SPOUMJ and Anitya. She is honored to have been recognized for her narration by an AudioFile Earphones Award, a Publisher’s Weekly Listen-Up Award, and nomination for an Audie Award.

About Dannika Dark

Dannika traveled abroad in her formative years, learning that life was bigger than her own backyard. With an active imagination, she developed a love for poetry and classic literature. At age 12, influential modern writers such as Stephen King and Anne Rice sparked her interest in writing short stories about magic and the apocalypse, but it wasn’t until decades later that Dannika left her 9-5 corporate job to pursue a career in publishing.

In addition to writing about supernatural worlds, Dannika is passionate about graphic design and creates all her own covers and series art. When not writing, she enjoys indie music, reading, Netflix, strawberry daiquiris, heaps of chocolate, and unleashing her dark side.

All of her published books to date are written in the same universe and contain material suitable for adults only. Dannika’s books have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Review Breakdown
Overall: four-stars