I don’t normally do book reviews around these parts because . . . well, mostly because when I’m writing I’m not reading and lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing. I wait until between projects to pick stuff up otherwise my brain dissolves into a pile of mushy pudding. This week, though, you won’t get one review from me, you’ll get TWO. Which makes me special. Or you special for being able to read them. Whatever. I made a couple of exceptions with these books mostly because I “know” the authors. As in I’ve conversed with them over the internet medium — WE’RE WEB BFFS AND SHIT — so they deserve my props and recommendations.
So this is the book I’m talking about today, available in bookstores and online for purchasing as of December 6th. It’s put out by Signet Eclipse and is considered Urban Fantasy Romance. Here is the snazzy cover:
A little background about the author, Amanda Bonilla. I met Amanda through my friend, Sarah Bromley, an agency-mate of mine repped by Miriam Kriss. Sarah is a fantastic person, very warm and friendly, and as such when she tells me someone in her immediate circle ROCKS THE BALLS, YO I pay attention. She had such things to say about Amanda. “Funny, talented, second coming of Writer Christ,” etc. etc. So I perked up, listened, and somehow got talking to Amanda through Sarah on Ye Olde Twitter. When I found out that Amanda was an Urban Fantasy gal — a genre I’ve dabbled in extensively — I immediately thought “YOU BE GROOVY, WENCHLING” and a mini-friendship was born.
Imagine my delight when I started nagging (yes, nagging, like “you want to punch me in the face repeatedly” scale of nagging) Amanda for an ARC of Shaedes of Gray and she actually sent one along. I figured she’d try to give me a web swirly and tell me these copies were reserved for people without severe personality disorders. But NAY! She mailed one out about two weeks ago. I cracked it open Saturday night . . . and was done reading by about three on Sunday. I plowed through it. Shaedes is an incredibly easy read. That doesn’t mean it’s written for six-year-olds, it just means it flows, one chapter into the next, so you’re page turning before you realize you’re page turning. Always a good thing! Another interesting thing about it is it is categorized as an Urban Fantasy Romance but it doesn’t really read like a romance. There’s a romance sup-plot in there, but it’s definitely that, a sub-plot. The main plot takes center stage with the romance angles playing second fiddle. Amanda flat out said this was not originally written with the Romance genre in mind, and I can definitely see it. I also appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my fair share of heaving bosoms and longing-look-books and loved them, but I wasn’t sure how far I really wanted to delve into Paranormal Romance territory. Some of it is very heavy handed, where the plot really focuses on two people falling in love. This book, with its cover and snazzy action blurb on the back looked much more like ASS KICKER IN DA HOUSE, so I think I would have been disappointed if the promise of uber violence had been thrust away in favor of lots of smexings. It wasn’t! There’s violence AND some smexings. WOO!
Shaedes is a story about Darian, an immortal woman who can slip between a corporeal form and a shadow form. With this particular talent for going shaede, she makes an excellent assassin and has been supplementing her income with the cash she makes from her kills for about a hundred years. She’s good at her job, a skilled fighter, with a lot of connections in the business. Her “boss” of the last five years, Tyler, hooks her up with well-paying gigs and pretty much orchestrates her hits for her, acting as liaison between assassin and client. He also happens to be really hot and really flirty with her, which Darian tries pretty hard to ignore. (Spoiler: she fails spectacularly at this.) Things are going along swimmingly until Tyler gives Darian a job unlike any other: to kill another shaede. She’s been under the impression for all of these years that she’s the last of her kind, but it’s pretty quickly revealed she’s very wrong.
From there, the story takes many, many twists and turns that I won’t go into for fear of giving too much away. You meet the shaede community, you talk to oracles, you discover a jinn, you learn that if a creature can be made of shadow and flesh, other creatures can be made of light and flesh. It’s a really interesting world with interesting characters. One thing I can fully admit to? The main character made me a little nervous for awhile. See, I get that some women are beautiful and thus alluring to most men. I get that Megan Fox exists (you bitch, it’s not fair). I had a sinking feeling reading Shaedes that sooner or later Darian was going to go the way of Anita Blake, that she’d get SO appealing you wanted to punch the fifty thousand characters pining after her to boink her. Fortunately, Amanda avoids making this into a hump-frenzy and you don’t want to strangle the dudes jockeying for position of Darian’s beloved. It’s appreciated. It’s really, really appreciated.
So, there’s the skinny on Shaedes of Gray. Amanda got a seriously good review from Romantic Times — 4 and a half stars and a Top Pick from them — and it’s deserved. If you’re in a position that you want to read a great UF with a romance twist, or hawk UF/Paranormal romance, or have a reader of such things in your immediate circle, you’d do a lot worse than to shove this beauty into their grubby little hands. Go forth and bookify. Forsooth!