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Monday, May 9, 2011


Author: Jessa Slade
Ratings: V4; S4; H2
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
     Seduced by Shadows (2009)
     Forged of Shadows (2010)
     Vowed in Shadows (2011)
     By Darkness Undone (TBA)

     A review of the latest book (Vowed in Shadows) follows this synopsis of the series so far:

     In this world, repentant demons (teshuva) possess sinners who then attempt to earn redemption by fighting against evil. These immortal penitents are called the talyan, and they spend all of their time hunting down and disposing of various demonic creatures. The series focuses on a band of talyan located in Chicago. The business cards carried by the talyan show a graphic depiction of their motto: @ one (at one, or atone).

     On the dark side, the worst of the evil demons are the powerful djinn, with the salambe, the feralis, and the malice demons keeping them company. The villain of the series is Corvus, a psychotic human possessed by a djinn. The series action includes many brutal battles between the talyan and various demons. At the evil center of each plot is Corvus, who is producing and distributing solvo, a street drug that eats away the souls of its users, leaving their body husks available to be taken over by various demonic creatures.

     The series has two lesser plot threads: One thread follows the struggle of the female talyan, who try to find their places on the team as they continue to research the long-buried mystery of why women were cast out of the talyan eons ago. The second thread involves the angels, who show up as minor characters about which little is known. As the series moves along, we learn more and more about the angels' role in the fight against evil.

     In Seduced by Shadows, Sera Littlejohn becomes the first female talya in centuries. She is pursued by crazy Corvus, who wants to use her to open the veil between Earth and Hell. Ferris Archer, also a talya, arrives just in time to “help” Sera through her demon ascendancy. Yes, it turns out that the best way for a female talya to get through the ascendancy of her demon safely is to have plenty of good, old-fashioned sex with the male talya who compliments her teshuva subcaste. Sure enough, the two fall for each other, in the usual hate-distrust-love kind of way. Since the talyan have never worked with a woman before, Sera’s introduction to the team is awkward, to say the least. Ferris and Sera have an epic battle with Corvus that results in some life-changing events.

     Forged of Shadows continues the saga, with Jilly Chan, another female talya who shows up to win the heart of Liam, the morose team leader of the Chicago talyan. Jilly has had the usual tragic childhood, and she now has to worry about her drug-addicted sister, who has taken up with Corvus. Liam, who has conscientiously and diligently devoted his life to his talyan team, hasn't had time for any personal relationships, so he doesn’t have a clue as to how to deal with Jilly. This unlikely pairing results in lots of second, third, fourth, etc., (ad infinitum) thoughts about their blossoming relationship. Another complication is the fact that the talyan are still having some problems accepting female team members. The book ends with yet another battle with Corvus.

     In Vowed in Shadows, we have the classic story of the fallen man of God and the prostitute, here in the guise of Jonah, a former minister, and Nim (aka Elaine, aka the Naughty Nymphette), a bawdy, snake-handling stripper who becomes the third female talya. I like Nim better than the first two heroines. With her ribald humor and earthy vulgarity, she adds a bit of comic relief to the story. In a climactic scene in the previous book, Jonah received a permanent physical disability, so with his self-hatred for his lost soul, his disgust for Nim’s chosen profession, and his grief over his injury, his emotional state is very dicey. As Nim and Jonah try to regain possession of Nim’s demon relic (an ankle bracelet that she pawned as soon as she found it), they tangle with multiple demons and with Corvus himself. We get a few more clues about the angels' role in the battle against the demons when Fane, an angelic warden enters the plot.

     The books are all nearly 400 pages long, and at least half of those pages are given over to long, dramatic, emotional monologues and dialogues about the doubts, miscommunications, uncertainties, and distrust between the hero and heroine—to the point that this reader was just flipping through the pages when the angst showed up yet again—just to get back to the story. These folks are all such emotional cripples, filled with such pervasive self-doubt and oppressive self-deprecation that I kept wanting to send each soul-mate pair to long-term couples counseling. Not to mention the fact that their neurotic prattle was so predictablethe same narcissistic whining, over and over again.

     On the positive side, the character of Ecco, a talya who has yet to find his mate, is very well developed. I like him as a supporting character, and I kind of dread the time when he'll get his own book. Then, he'll be required to lose his laid-back, bad-boy attitude and become an emotionally disabled victim—so sad.

     One other weakness is that the constant demon battles become somewhat interchangeable as the series progresses, and by the third book, I was (once again) just flipping the pages to get past the battle scenes, hoping to find something new in the plot.  I know, I knowthey're demon hunters, so they are required to fight demons, but other writers have handled this scenario in better ways. I guess that my problem with the series is that the characters are either emoting endlessly about their own shortcomings or they are in the midst of battle. There's not much in between, and that type of writing doesn't hold my interestespecially not after three identically constructed books. 

     The author includes a glossary of terms at the end of the second and third books and a few pages of character description at the end of the third book. 

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