So, I’m more than halfway through Shadow of the Sun now, and I’ll be finishing it. There were some things I was hoping for that did not come to pass, but there are encouraging signs.
Let’s start with the disappointments, before I get to the the plusses.
When last I wrote about this story, I was only three chapters in and we had a smart and possibly spunky young woman in a job she didn’t seem suited for on the surface but in fact might be perfect for. In short, she might have been a Stephanie Plum of supernatural investigation.
Honestly, I’m ok with Miss Plum but I’m not a diehard fan. But if you’re going to write a series based on a single character, you need to learn from Stephanie’s success. Plum is a bounty hunter from Jersey, charmingly unqualified for the job, yet able to succeed through willpower and cleverness. Most important, outside of the fantasy genre one expects a series of books that allow the character to grow but each book will be a satisfying read on its own. I had hopes that Gabriella could be a kindred spirit, someone confronted with a never-ending variety of crazy situations, and have to work each one out. Hell, you could even get a little humor out of that.
Nope. Gabby is a chosen one. Nothing particularly wrong with chosen one stories, fantasy is thick with them, but… fantasy is thick with them. It’s kind of refreshing when someone who’s only mildly exceptional gets stuck in these situations and has no power of prophesy to bail her out.
An observation: There are attractive bad guys in this story, but there are no ugly good guys. An overweight human is a nasty human.
A storytelling issue: roughly in chapter four Karen said, “We need exposition! Summon the council of Elders!” (Not quite a direct quote, but pretty close. And I will use that line someday.) The elders convene, and expose. Thank you, elders, be sure to pick up your parting gifts on the way out. Oh, and remember Ol’ bitchy? She has faded away, without elevating the story in any way. She’ll probably pop up later, but honestly setting her up ahead of time was not worth the damage she did to Gabby’s credibility. (Gabriella hates being called Gabby, but I feel like we’re pals now.)
When reading in bed, I started marking the editorial errors, which I can’t do while on the trainer (can’t hold my finger still enough). There are a lot of errors (not even counting missed-hyphenation errors, which I chose not to mark). Maybe I can send my marked-up version back to the publisher. Seems like with e-publishing they could put out a patched-up version pretty quickly. It’s nice to feel constructive but right now there are a lot of errors in front of me that should have been caught before the thing hit my reading device. Missing words, for crying out loud.
The (main) love interest: Too fucking perfect. Roll-your-eyes feminine wish-fulfillment. I hold out hope for a lot of things to improve in this story, but that’s not one of them. He will be forever perfect. (OK, maybe in book three there will be a little doubt, but I’m not likely to read book three.)
Whew! Now the good. Fewer in number but greater in magnitude. The warning by the demon-guy near the beginning may not be what it seemed. (That doesn’t explain why he wasn’t clearer with his message, though, or why he didn’t make any effort to deliver the message in a way that could possibly succeed.) Good vs evil isn’t as neatly-sliced as most people want it to be. That right there is a big win for me, and enough reason to keep me reading.
Another biggie: The pace of the story makes me think that before I reach the back e-cover of this volume something large will be resolved. We just had a big battle and a sympathetic character died. Gabby’s mysterious past is rapidly being demystified, and overall it feels like I’m reading a story that fits in the space provided. Kind of sad that “it might have an ending” is reason to push on, but this is the lot of the fantasy reader these days.
The above wouldn’t matter, but I’m actually interested in how this plays out. I get the feeling that the mystery of the extra key will not be answered this volume, and that’s ok if some other closure is achieved. But the extra key is an interesting mystery, one that implies that yet another faction might be at work. (I’m still sorting out the factions, all of whom have ‘of’ as a middle name, and many of which are fragmented and their members have no firm identity to start with and to hell with it I’ll figure out who’s bad by whom they try to kill.)
Gabby herself, despite being a chosen one, is really pretty all right. She’s discovering power, but what legitimatizes her identity is her selfless nature, her insistence that they all get out together. That’s what makes her a hero. That trait is played pretty hard a couple of times — hammered, really — but this is the reason we like ol’ Gabby. She doesn’t need any of the other shit she can do if she carries that well. (Writing challenge: create a savior of super beings who has no innate superpowers beyond inspirational leadership.) She’s showing the best of human traits even as the definition of human is being warped. We all want to have that strength.
And so I keep reading, and root for ol’ Gabby, and now I know that the author is not afraid to kill good guys, which raises the stakes (though honestly I wonder about the permanence of death in this case). There are enough snakes in the grass that you start wondering if everyone is a snake. That’s pretty fun. (I’m pretty sure I know the next snake revelation, but that’s mostly ok, as long a Gabby doesn’t seem to be willfully ignoring her own observations.)
Let’s see where this goes.
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