Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review of Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

(Warning: Spoilers Alert...as always, proceed with caution....)

Readers have expectations.

Romances should be about love. The story is about the relationship between the hero and heroine. Love saves the day. HEA forever.

Women's fiction is about the heroine. Her growth, her journey. Romance might be involved, but ultimately it is the heroine's story.

A fantasy is about the story itself. The story is the star of the show...filled with out-of-this-world details, plot twists and turns, gorgeous imagery, shocking imagery. It's most often a plot-driven work, not character-driven.

So what happens when a well-beloved romance author decides to write an epic fantasy series? Hmmm. Her fans expect romance. Her readers expect real character development. Some of them might jump on the fantasy bandwagon and enjoy the craziness of it all, but some of them still crave hot sex scenes and a hero to die for.

Karen Marie Moning has accomplished something extraordinary with this Fever series. She has transformed Dublin into a mythological battlefield filled with scrappy humans and horrifying imaginary creatures, where every shadow is feared. She created a heroine whose journey transformed her from a fluffy pink priss into a raw warrior. She provided a hero full of mystery, a storyline filled with shocking revelations, simple truths and painful betrayals. And she took the reader on the journey using a first person POV, so that we lived each moment with Mac herself....reveled in the victories, wept at the tragedies, wavered back and forth between hopeful and helpless.

This series is exactly what an epic fantasy should be. An adventure. In every way.

Now, I'm not gonna tell you that this book was perfect. The beginning was too slow, too repetitive and became frustrating to read. I was tired of Mac being in the dark, because it meant we, the readers, were in the dark, too. I wanted answers. I was tired of not knowing. The whole "he's not really dead because he can come back to life" thing was too gimmicky. The "big misunderstanding" plot device going on (Barrons thinking Mac slept with Darroc, her not clearing this misconception up) dragged on for too long and was irksome.

But Holy Christ On A Cracker, once the pacing picked up and the story finally began to unfold, KMM totally got her groove on. The fantasy part of this book was simply amazing. Winged Hunters flying through the sky, terrorizing Dublin, magical castles filled with mirrors, grotesque creatures sucking the life out of unsuspecting humans. Moning's imagery is captivating.

But here's the thing. After the battles, the chases, the explosions, the decapitations....I was expecting one of two things: A) Love would save the day, or.....B) Mac would save the day. Turns out the Un-Seelie King saved the day. Huh. Didn't see that one coming. Karen Marie Moning managed to keep the story itself as the star of the show. The plot twists and turns, the mythology and fantasy, became the focus of the climax of this book. But neatly tucked into this rich and complex narrative, she included a couple of other things. A couple of things that will make every romance reader sigh with happiness.

It didn't come with a big explosion or save-the-day plot device (like I thought it would). It was a simple, lovely, oh-so-satisfying declaration of love and trust.

"He went very still. Is that how you think of me?

Time seemed to stand still.....

Bet your ass you're mine, bud, I shot at him...

Barrons tossed his head back and laughed, teeth flashing in his dark face."

What we'd all been waiting for, for 5 long books. And finally, this....

"I was happy. I knew why you'd lied." His dark gaze was ancient, inhuman, and uncharacteristically gentle. Because you love me.....

Barrons held out his hand. "Don't leave me Rainbow Girl."....

The best part of this book, for me--lover of romance above all else--wasn't the sifting Fae, the frozen concubines, the spear-stabbing kick-ass action scenes, the bellowing beast in the basement. The best part was the end of the journey for Mac. Things in Dublin are still weird, unfinished, and fraught with uncertainty. But finally, after her epic adventure, Mac knows that she earned the love and trust of her beast, and can trust in herself and the choices she has made.

Simple, really.

Grade: A