Book Review: Shadows

review-cover-shadowsTitle: Shadows [The Rephaim 1]

Author: Paula Weston

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn.

And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams—he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense. Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly, who can she trust?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, when I first picked up Shadows by Paula Weston, I wasn’t sure I liked it. It’s hard to put my finger on the exact problem, but I think some of it had to do with the slow start and the author’s penchant for over description. I’m not saying the description is bad, but there comes a point when it can be distracting, and I feel like the story hovered right on the border of having too much when I first delved into the story.

Luckily, things improved.

From a technical standpoint, and other than the over-description, the book was pretty flawlessly written. There were one or two typos (an incorrect word, a missing space), but nothing too jarring, and certainly nothing distracting enough to pull me from the story for more than a split second. Though the book started off a little slow, the narrative hit a nice pace after the first few chapters and stayed steady throughout. I didn’t feel rushed or bogged down. I did have some difficulty with the language, but that could be attributed to the book taking place in Australia, rather than America like I’m used to. There were times I didn’t understand the slang, and it took me a little while to catch on that the book was taking place in another country, but once I figured it out, things went smoothly. Most of the time I could guess, or skip over the slang that I didn’t understand, and it didn’t cause me any problems with the story—though I did get to learn a few new words!

As for the characters and the plot? I loved them. The story was interesting, the characters were dynamic and well fleshed out, and the questions the author presented for both the main character, Gaby, and the reader, kept me reading. I desperately wanted to understand what was happening, just as Gaby was, and I was equally wary and stunned as she figured out the answers. I loved every minute of it!

Now, other than the over-describing of the beginning, there was one other aspect that did give me pause: the story is familiar. Nephilim, demon hunters.. sanctuary in churches—excuse me, monastery… this isn’t a fresh story. There’re a million and one YA Paranormal Fantasy books with the same theme, which is fine, but it was a bit uncomfortably similar to a particular series that was noted in the book’s synopsis across the internet (I’ve left it out here) in several ways—including sharing an enamored, but somewhat geeky kid named Simon. I’m not saying this was a clone. It wasn’t—at all, believe me… there were so many differences that made this clearly unique!—but these details and the author’s note in the description recommending it to fans of that particular series didn’t go unnoticed.

That being said, I honestly loved the book. Had it not been the niggling little details about the familiarity and the slow beginning, this would have gotten a resounding five stars. I truly enjoyed the book, and I’m very excited to read on in the series (I’ve already purchased the second and third books!)

If you love YA paranormal urban fantasy that deals heavily with angels, demons, Nephilim, and super-power-like abilities, you’re probably going to love this book, and I’d be happy to recommend it. If you’re a fan of similar series, try to keep an open mind, though similar, this is definitely something new, and you’ll probably enjoy it every bit as much as I did.

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Book Review: Shadow’s Claim

cover-shadow'sclaimTitle: Shadow’s Claim [The Dacians 1]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament—to the death.

He won’t be denied…

Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people, striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains.

She’s bound to another…

Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A battle for her body and soul…

Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever-pitch…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book was not entirely what I was expecting. Just this past month, Vaginal Fantasy, the romance book club I belong to, put Shadow’s Claim on it’s reading list. I didn’t have time to get around to it, so I watched the group hangout, read some reviews by my fellow book club members, and then picked this book up to give it a read. I’m glad in a way that I heard other people’s reviews about the book before I actually read it, because it gave me the opportunity to look out for some of the things people mentioned had bothered them, and I think it gave me a bit of a different perspective on the book. Every time I came to an issue someone else had, I paused, looked at it, and tried to decide if it bothered me as much as it had them. In some cases, they did, and in others, I was left scratching my head wondering if they were off their rocker.

When I first started reading the book, I’ll admit, I was really thrown. I was greeted with a glossary of terms and histories of all the different clans and planes within the elaborate world of Lore (yes, that is what it’s called), and it was a bit intimidating. Frankly, I’m glad I read it. The author really didn’t take the time to explain any of the world building or terms in this book, so if I hadn’t read the glossary, I probably wouldn’t have understood the story. Odd terms and names of places and people in the culture were constantly been thrown at the reader, and not once did the narrative explain them. The first time the word “Trace” came up, I had to look back to the glossary to remind myself what they were talking about. As a reader, I’m somewhat disgruntled about it. I’m one of those people that demands two things from a story:

  • All unfamiliar but crucial terms must be explained to the reader within the story.
  • All books in a series should be strong enough to stand up alone outside the series.

I think this book failed the first of those bullet points. Without the glossary, I would have been dead in the water, and probably set the book aside. The first chapter was an exercise in flipping back and forth between the story and the glossary, and even having read the book, I’m not entirely sure I fully comprehend how the world works.

That aside, I really enjoyed the story. Once I could get past all the weird terms that I didn’t understand, the plot was fast-paced, interesting, and full of steamy sex scenes. I’ve only read a few books where the main character was a demon, and I like looking at the different way certain authors handle the lore. It was nice to see a demon character that wasn’t wholly evil, but didn’t blink at doing morally questionable things.  When it came to the world building, unlike most of my fellow book club members, I really didn’t care for it much. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of books that try to smash a lot of fantastical creatures into one story… it always comes across as silly to me. I’d rather have a selective array of well-fleshed out species than dozens of species that were barely touched upon. That’s just a “me” thing. I think for the most part, the books strength lay in the romance between Trehan and Bettina.

Honestly, I didn’t like most of the characters. Raum and Bettina’s sylph (I can’t bother to remember his name) as far as I could tell, were completely needless in the story. Neither one did anything in the book that couldn’t have been perpetrated by another character. In fact, Raum was barely present in the story at all. The sylph’s main purposed seem to be raunchy dialogue and making Bettina uncomfortable. Bettina’s aunt, on the other hand (again, can’t seem to bother with her name) seemed to be present only to give snarky comments and threaten people. She was an odd bird, as they say, and I really didn’t like her, which is funny, because most readers seemed to. She was manipulative and childish, and I really couldn’t stand her. As for Caspion… I never really understood the attraction, or even the friendship between him and Bettina. He wasn’t a good guy. Sure, he was good looking… but he was a man-whore. Everyone knew it. She knew it… and still she was madly in love with him. The woman was out of her mind I tell you. Caspion was skeazy. He was interested in only one thing: himself–and it showed with every action.

In contrast, Trehan was loving, attentive, manly, sexy, and deadly. I was amazed at how long it took Bettina to really consider him as a love interest. If you don’t want him Bett, I’ll take him. Thanks. As for the (many) sex scenes… they were steamy. A big deal was made over the amount of “manly fluid” throughout the book in a lot of reviews I went through, but really, if you read through it, it was only mentioned three -maybe- four times, and not egregiously so. I’m kind of baffled by the overwhelming mention of it. Since most of the steamy scenes were written from Trehan’s viewpoint, the mention of “manly fluids” seemed appropriate and not overwhelmingly mentioned.

As for Bettina… she was annoyingly stupid considering how brilliant she was supposed to be. She let everyone walk all over her, spent the better part of her life fawning over a man-whore, and was afraid to even go outside alone. Her only redeeming qualities were her weapon/jewelry work, and her relationship with Trehan (who is my favorite character). Overall, I think if the romance hadn’t been as strong as it was, the book would have slipped to a solid 3 on my rating scale. Luckily, it was there, and it was H-O-T.

In the end, I really did enjoy the book despite it’s many flaws. There was action, passion, and gore.. which are three of my favorite things, and the lack of character depth and confusing world-building took a back burner to those portions of the story for me.Would I recommend it? Yes. I liked it, and I think many others would too, possibly for different reasons than me. It’s one of those books where the different elements of the story will draw an array of readers who may not all agree on which are the best portions of the story, and that’s okay. It works.