Shadow Kin (The Half-Light City #1)

Shadow KinBy M.J. Scott

Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

On one side, the Night World, rules by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages…

Born a wraith, Lily is a shadow who slips between worlds. Brought up by a Blood Lord and raised to be his assassin, she is little more than a slave. But when Lily meets her match in target Simon DuCaine, the unlikely bond that develops between them threatens to disrupt an already stretched peace in a city on the verge of being torn apart…

Goodreads Summary

The Blood Lord has sent his Shadow assassin to kill Simon DuCaine in the middle of the night. What she doesn’t know is that he’s a sunmage and he’s able to call the sunlight and trap her in solid form before she can complete the job.

When Simon finds out The Shadow – Lily – was sent by Lucius to kill him, he decides to try to win her over and get her to testify in front of the fae about the assassination attempt so the unstable Lucius will be removed from his position, preserving the treaty that keeps the various paranormal factions from attempting any takeovers in the city. Simon underestimates Lucius’ power over Lily and despite their growing feelings for each other, she can’t make a decision. Each time she returns to Lucius, she unwittingly endangers more than her relationship with Simon though – she’s risking the entire city.

This ended up being sort of an odd read for me because while I really liked the story and I loved the world the author created, I found the two main characters pretty bland and their supposed romance was boring. The setting trumped the characters though and I enjoyed the book despite them.

There are four general factions in Scott’s world, two of which exist in the Night World – the Beast Kind and the vampires. Among the vampires, there are Blood Lords like Lucius, humans willingly serving vampires called The Trusted and those being strung along like addicts called The Blood Locked. On the other side are the humans, the fae, mages and the Templars, who enforce the treaty that’s in place to keep any one side from declaring war on any of the others and taking over the city.

The story is told in alternating first person POV and there’s no labeling to let you know whose head you’re in. Most of the time it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not and it’s always abrupt. I know I would have liked at least one of the lead characters better if the story had stuck to one narrator.

Lily is a wraith, a nearly impossible product of an unknown type of father and a fae mother. She can turn into a shadow and walk in the dark and has been in service to Lucius as his assassin for more than a dozen years, her abilities and efficiency earning her near-bogeyman status. She can’t leave Lucius because they have a bond she can’t break and she’s afraid of him. It’s a great setup that unfortunately didn’t work for me because while Scott had all the ingredients there to make Lily a terrific fighter, she never went and finished the dang cake. She was sort of a whiny wimp. Rather than looking for ways out of her situation, she kept coming up with excuses about why she had to go back to the way her life was. Her reasoning for everything was so convoluted and she was just deceitful enough, often enough that I stopped putting a lot of effort into liking her after the halfway point in the story.

Simon is a sunmage, capable of bringing the sunlight into the dark for a little while and healing others. He’s the head healer at a hospital run by a really nasty piece of work fae, and while he pretends not to know why Lucius would be targeting him for assassination, it’s eventually revealed that he’s doing something that could impact the whole vampire community, including Lily. Surely Simon is a powerful, interesting guy? I don’t really know how, but he really isn’t. Even when he’s plotting to kidnap Lily, he’s not in charge, or at least doesn’t appear to be. It all seems to happen by accident. In nearly every urban fantasy, the hero and heroine are like two alphas in burlap sacks, alternately fighting and mating. These two are betas in a comforter, pawing at each other and rolling away.

The romance between Simon and Lily really didn’t feel like it was anything particularly special between the characters. There were specific reasons Lily had for approaching Simon in the first place that made me uncomfortable and I think by then I thought he was so beta, there didn’t seem to be a lot of oomph. Later, he reacts horribly to something she reveals and there’s a quick, easy resolution. Too quick, too easy, too boring. For characters with supposed backgrounds like these in a book like this, I would expect more fire.

The story though – the story intrigued me. I really liked the way Scott set up the Half-Light City. It’s a weird mixture of dark fantasy, a little steampunk and at times there are some lush gothic touches. I’m not sure how to even classify the inclusion of the Templars. It’s this wild mixture of elements that somehow come together and work to create this exciting, dangerous city. I wish Lucius had appeared more – he was a dark character that I think could have added a lot more to Lily’s story. The Beast Kin only appeared briefly as well, just long enough to offer a little tease about their familiar hierarchy. I’m assuming there’ll be more of them in following books.

My Summary: It was unfortunate that Lily and Simon didn’t really live up to the setting, which was superb. I actually am looking forward to the next book, believe it or not. I’m hoping it’s for Simon’s brother the Templar, Guy, who is very much a strong alpha. He had a fighting scene with Lily that was terrific and I think he’ll make a wonderful hero. I think Scott has built an exciting world – even if Lily and Simon weren’t for me, I still recommend reading this for that reason (and you may like them anyway).

My Rating: B-

Barbara

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Comments

  1. I'm not sure if I've ever read a book where the setting carried the story for me. I think I would have given it a lower grade is the characters were so bland. I guess it's a good thing you were the one reviewing it!

  2. Well you know I'm weird. This seriously was a great world setup. If the next book is about Guy, I'll read it just based on the background Scott's laid down. It's so unusual and textured and wild. There's another character named Liam that I hope gets a book but he's sort of just a boy in this one so he may need a little work first.

  3. I like that there is a mixture of goth, steampunk and fantasy. Sounds like a great combo. I have seen this book around and the reviews have either been lukewarm or favorable. So I guess it must be pretty decent.

  4. Hi Lena :)It does have a really good atmosphere to it and I love the author's imagination. I think the two main characters are just the sticking point, especially Simon. He's very beta. Not that it's always a bad thing, but the story needed a couple of alphas.

  5. I think it was a nice book. I've quite the same feeling about the relationship too. But I really like the world the author had built. I would be curious for the sequel. Great review !

  6. Hi Melliane!Thank you so much. 🙂 I agree, I liked the world too, I'm so glad to have another perspective about the book and Lily and Simon. I know I came down a little hard on them and maybe others would like them.

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