(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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…
I was a little apprehensive in the beginning of Shadow Kin simply because I’m very familiar with the whole ‘assassin falls in love with his/her mark’ trope. However, I loved M.J. Scott’s take on this old trope because of course nothing is simple in the Half-Light City.
One of the things I really liked about Shadow Kin is the world-building. There are four factions: vampires, werewolves, humans and the Fae. There is a sort of tense peace between the four races but there’s a lot of compromise. The most horrific compromise is the fact that any human who goes to the Night World chasing vampires is lost to humanity and their remaining family have little recourse if their loved one goes missing or becomes blood-locked. (Blood-locking is when a human drinks vampire blood and becomes addicted to it, eventually going mad.) And of course since the Fae are vulnerable to iron, they also limit the total supply of iron for the entire city. Werewolves don’t seem to do much except fight with the vampires and fight each other for dominance. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this but that’s the beauty of this book: the world-building is excellent and M.J. Scott is a good enough writer that she can play with the political tensions while still focusing on the interpersonal conflicts.
Of course my favourite part of the book has to be the characters. Lily is a woman that doesn’t belong anywhere: the Fae don’t want her because she’s a wraith and she’ll never truly belong with the vampires even though she does Lucius’ dirty work. She’s been manipulated and used for her whole life so when she tries to kill Simon, fails and then he offers to hep her escape Lucius she obviously doesn’t believe him. I can’t really blame her because I certainly wouldn’t in her situation. But Simon is one of those few people that is entirely sincere in his desire to help people; it’s almost a fault with him. He and Lily make an odd couple but their romance is very sweet. It’s not easy and even the caring Simon can act like a total jerk (particularly in the last quarter of the book) but that just makes it more realistic.
The plot is fast-paced if a little predictable. Well, mostly predictable—there was a major surprise regarding Lily’s powers at the end of the novel. Still, the creative world-building, well-developed characters and sweet romance more than make up for a little predictability. In addition to that, the ending resolves the main plot while leaving so much more for Scott to explore in the rest of the series. Shadow Kin is a good start to the Half-Light City series and I can’t wait to read more.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is —and whom she can trust— before it’s too late?
I liked the first book Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side in a kind of guilty pleasure way. There was an attractive guy, an average girl with hidden strengths and plenty of humour. It wasn’t the most original thing I ever read but I was pleased with the way Beth Fantaskey created her vampires and the sort of hierarchy within them. In all, it was just a good read. However, I was very disappointed with Jessica Rules the Dark Side.
One of the things that I loved about the first book was Jessica as she grew to accept her role as a vampire princess and found an inner strength. With the help of Lucius and her friend Mindy, she almost single-handedly reunited the two biggest feuding vampire clans in Romania. Despite Lucius trying to kill her in a fit of half-madness, she managed to reunite the clans and make him realize that they really can be together because they love each other. She was a sort of stereotypical shy teenager with low self-esteem in the beginning but Jessica triumphed and worked through a lot of those issues. It was really satisfying.
But in Jessica Rules the Dark Side, she seems to have regressed to her former self now that she’s married and it was really disappointing. Sure, she’s very much over her head when it comes to vampire politics but Beth Fantaskey starts the sequel at a point where she should at least be learning basic things about each vampire on the council, things about vampire lore and proper stake etiquette. She should also be learning Romanian, but she seems to make absolutely no effort to do so. It’s really frustrating, especially since in the first book she declared that she wanted to be a princess and learn how to rule. Then rule, woman! Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log waiting as events crash into you in wave after wave of dangerous plot twists. Even when Lucius is put in solitary confinement and deprived of blood, Jessica just sort of wanders around aimlessly. It’s really, really frustrating.
One thing I found the most frustrating about this novel is that it’s told not just from Lucius and Jessica’s points of view, it’s also told from the point of view of Mindy and Raniero, a deadly vampire warrior who just wants to be a surfer dude. Mindy is the most annoying character in this book because she’s such a walking stereotype: she’s slightly ditzy, a fashionista, loves make up, isn’t sure what to do with life, etc. It’s really, really frustrating because her story is told with the poor grammar that she actually uses when she speaks. Raniero, on the other hand is desperately trying to be a surfer dude while knowing full well that he can never really banish his warrior side, no matter how hard he tries. He’s very frustrating in the beginning because of this but I liked him in the end when he actually accepted his role in the vampire hierarchy.
So the characters this time around were mediocre at best (except for Lucius, of course) but the plot was absolutely painful. It almost felt like someone was pulling my nails out in front of my the whole time. Why? Because it’s a mystery and I figured it out shortly after Lucius had been accused of murder, sometime around the first third of the book. I had to watch as Jessica stumbled blindly around like her old self and in the end was saved by Mindy, someone who doesn’t really have the intelligence to figure out that Raniero isn’t all that he seems. It was so frustrating. I get that Jessica’s new to this world and is rather distracted by the fact that Lucius is slowly starving in the dungeons, but really? You only applied modern-ish forensics to the case at the eleventh hour? Wouldn’t it have been easier to examine the body first, like a logical human being would? Not only that, when someone is advising you to do things and those things keep going wrong, maybe you should be suspicious of your adviser!
In the end, I wish I had never read this sequel. It’s not badly written but it’s frustrating to see characters I liked completely regress and to have the whole book revolve around a mystery 90% of readers probably solved before they got to the halfway mark in the book. If you read the first book, I can’t honestly recommend reading Jessica Rules the Dark Side. It’s just disappointing.
I give this book 2/5 stars.