Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott

I seem to have been going through a bit of a UF binge of late. Finding myself still wishing for more UF, I picked up this one, partly because of all the reviews I’ve been coming across lately of the sequel! They’ve got me interested in what this one will be like!

Title: Shadow Kin
Author: M.J. Scott
Series: The Half-Light City #1
Publisher: Roc
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: (Urban) fantasy
Length: 324 pages

Story: Welcome to the Half-Light City.

Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, ruled by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely...

I was born of a Fae mother, but I had no place amongst her kind. They called me "soulless." An abomination. Perhaps they're right...I'm a wraith, a shadow who slips between worlds. I was given into the service of a Blood Lord who raised me to be his most feared assassin. Still, I'm nothing more than a slave to my master, and to the need that only he can fulfill...

Then he orders me to kill Simon DuCaine, a powerful sunmage. In the blaze of his magic, my own disappears. Instead of seeking revenge, Simon shows me mercy. He wants to free me. But that's one thing my master and his kind will never allow.

And even if I thought I could trust Simon, stepping from the shadow into the light isn't as simple as it sounds...

Thoughts and impressions: I have to say I was very surprised by this book. The synopsis makes it obvious that there’s going to be some romance involved but I wasn’t expected it to be quite so central to the plot. My local bookstore is usually fairly good at separating the paranormal romance from the (urban) fantasy, so when I found this one shelved as urban fantasy, I thought I was signing up for an urban fantasy. Imagine my surprise when we don’t even manage to make it through a whole chapter before physical attraction is overruling a lifetime’s worth of training. Indeed, the romance – or at least the initial lust – is thrown in the reader’s face a tad too much for me to really appreciate it.

Add to this the fact that Lily’s sadomasochistic vampire boss is pretty much forcing orgasms on her by making her addicted to his orgasm-inducing blood and the sexual side of the story was too much at the forefront for my tastes. It felt a little on the contrived side to have the heroine constantly feeling “the need” – a need for sexual release that becomes all-encompassing if she doesn’t feed it. Pushing things even farther into my personal realms of disbelief, Lily is still a virgin – her body’s virtue being the only thing she could keep from the Blood (vampires). This was just far too cliché for me. Having an older woman who otherwise makes for a strong heroine being focused on their virginity is one of my personal pet peeves: why give the hero all the experience and the heroine none? It’s not like her past sexual history has a negative effect on their budding “true love” – at least, his doesn’t, so why should hers?

So, the romance plot didn’t really work for me, and considering how essential it is to the overall plot, that’s not a good thing. A good chunk of the story is about how attractive Lily finds Simon, or how much Simon wants to take Lily to his bed. I like romance in what I’m reading, but I don’t like it to be completely overpowering, as I felt was the case here.

Beyond this, the society presented was complex and interesting. It wasn’t really a second world fantasy setting but it wasn’t so much an urban fantasy setting either. The reader is introduced to a city where the Blood (vampires), Beasts (shape shifters), Fare and humans live in a form of uneasy peace kept by a political treaty. The treaty isn’t exactly respected to the full by any of those involved, though, which results in a fair amount of unrest between the factions. While the other three factions were more or less as they are portrayed in most other novels that deal with such paranormal creatures, the humans were particularly interesting. Reading this book I got the definite impression that we’ve really only just started scratching the surface of what there is to the humans’ abilities in this world. For this reason more than any other I’d be interested in following through with this series.

Style: The author had a tendency to write very complicated sentences that got lost in themselves. As a native speaker, I was able to unravel them, but anyone reading this as a non-native speaker of English might have some trouble following some of the more complicated structures.

Also, it’s worth noting that the story is written in two separated first person voices: that of Lily and that of Simon. Unfortunately, both voices are very similar.

Final verdict: A very good idea but the obsession with sex was just taken too far for my tastes. 3 stars

Extra notes: Some bad language present. Sex is present.


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