Monday, October 6, 2008

SHADES OF DARK: Mini-Review

(This commentary has been cross-posted on The Toasted Scimitar)

I just finished this SFR and what a dark psychological journey it was. I started reading it once and had to quit. I just couldn't get into to. When I decided to give it another try, it took me by surprise—total hooksville. It's been quite awhile since a book has made me sit back and say "OMG!" out loud and bring real tears at the conclusion, but this one did. Powerful stuff here. I'm going to do this commentary/mini-review (unlike one of my quirky, full-blown reviews) to offer my overall impressions and thoughts.

This book is the sequel to Linnea Sinclair's GABRIEL'S GHOST and follows the continuing story of former court martialed fleet captain Chasidah "Chaz" Bergren and outlaw/heir Gabriel "Sully" Sullivan as they face a monstrous political upheaval and diabolical threat--a floating lab breeding killing machines called jukors. As Captain Bergren, former Pride of the Sixth Fleet, Chaz once pursued Sullivan on the fringes of colonized space trying to apprehend him. After her court martial, Sully (who's supposed to be dead, hence the title) rescues her from a dangerous prison colony and smuggles her away to help him find the beast-breeding lab that's at the root of a political scheme. This is the beginning of their love affair and their covert struggle, and also their conflict, when Chaz discovers Sully is a rare human form of a universally hated telepathic/telekinetic entity.

While Sully travels the path down into a dark place called the Kyi, he grows more powerful in his abilities, at quite a cost. The introduction of "Del" as his alien co-conspirator, instructor-bond brother added a character I was very uncomfortable with in terms of his influence on Sully and his constant sexual pursuit of Chaz. Del is also a contributor to Sully's personality "split" between his human side (Sully) and the side that isn't quite human and at times very frightening (Gabriel).

The sex scenes between Chaz and Sully were frequent and very intense, although not explicit or graphic. It was an emotional intensity fortified by the fact that she could feel his pleasure and he could feel hers through their mental link, and at times the sex reached some very high emotional heat pinnacles.

The author took chances with Gabriel's character and took him places few writers would take an MC. As it turns out, sex is one of the ways Sully increases his power as he "feeds" on emotions. But that need to feed has a very twisted side to it. At one point in the story, Chaz decides to leave Gabriel when she discovers what he's done, and I was right there in her corner. What Gabriel participated in was IMHO beyond redemption and very disturbing, and the author delivered that gut punch in a very artful way. (My OMG moment.) My feeling was "Get the hell outta of there, Chaz, while you still can...and take Philip with you."

Philip is Chaz's ex-spouse, ex-Fleet Admiral and soon to be ex-living soul when he crash lands in their ships' shuttle bay and Del threatens his life to pressure Chaz into sex. I didn't like Philip in Gabriel's Ghost. I thought he was an interfering, overbearing jerk and control freak. In SHADES OF DARK, Philip came through as an absolute doll, accepting of Chaz and Sully's relationship even as he still mourns her loss, and I could completely understand the strong bond Chaz still shared with him. He's the only one totally looking out for Chaz's welfare and concerned for her safety because of the dangers of Sully's fully-phased Kyi self and requirements of his bond with Del. I had no interest at all in reading HOPE'S FOLLY—the next spin-off book due out in 2009 and Philip's story—until I read SHADES OF DARK. Now I'm a huge Philip fan. I'm not so sure how this one left me feeling about Sully, quite honestly.

In the end, Gabriel betrays Chaz in the worst possible way, and then takes steps to redeem himself that results in what is certainly not a complete HEA but probably the best possible resolution under the circumstances. It didn't change what Sully had done but his acknowledgement and deep remorse for crossing the line did bring his human side back into play.

This book may not appeal to those who go for lighter romance content or blissful HEAs, but if you crave a psychological Twilight Zone spiced with sexual and moral dilemmas, you should check this one out.

7 comments:

  1. See, I was worried about something like this when I heard Linnea was writing a sequel. Quite frankly, I didn't love Gabriel's Ghost enough to want to continue the story. Reading the review, I doubt I'll buy it.

    I loved Downhome Zombie Blues, and I wouldn't mind seeing those characters again. But I think this story is one I'll skip.

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  2. Yes, I'd have to agree if you didn't like Gabriel's Ghost it's very doubtful you'd like this one because it's darker and Sully's character becomes even more questionable. I liked the characters and the conflict in GG and would probably rate it as #2 behind Games of Command of the Linnea Sinclair novels I've read. I liked TDHZB very much and some of the elements were fantastic, but the romance didn't have quite the depth I'm looking for.

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  3. And I can live without the intense romance, I prefer TDHZB because it was less sex and more action. I prefer sraight-up sci-fi, but will read sci-fi romance if the plot is good.

    With both Games of Command and Accidental Goddess I felt cheated out of ending. The final chapters all felt rushed and I wished Linnea had shown some more of the final action. Accidental Goddess, especially, was very deux ex machina.

    She's not a bad author. And I like most of her ideas. I'm just nto always thrilled with the execution.

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  4. I haven't read Accidental Goddess yet, but it will come up eventually in my Leaning Tower of TBR. :)

    I found the ending of Games of Command very satisfying, where I felt the conclusion of TDHZB was a little too convenient. The point that her species looked down on Nil-Techs was emphasized, and there didn't seem to be any real repercussions or any attempts to enforce the nonfraternization stigmas of her culture at the close of the story, IMHO.

    Overall, though I really loved the imaginative elements in TDHZB and my preferences for more romance and a bit more obstacle to overcome at the conclusion are just nitpicks.

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  5. SHADES is excellent, but it is dark. Hence the title. I really have to be in the mood for it. Chaz is one of my favorite SFR heroines because she's not a Standard Issue Kick-Butt Heroine. Still, GAMES and ZOMBIE are my favorite Linnea Sinclair novels. I can read them for fun any day of the week.

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  6. Cool review, Laurie!

    I enjoyed SHADES, and my two favorite things about it were Chaz and Phillip *drool*. I like very intense plots so the darker elements worked for me.

    GOC is still my favorite of Linnea's books, although I do agree with Just_me that the ending felt a bit rushed. It needed at least another chapter or the BLANK to happen sooner to be more believable. I wish her publisher had given her a higher word count for that book.

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  7. I guess I'm in the minority, but I didn't think the GOC ending was rushed, and *spoiler alert!* I was almost convinced Kel-Paten was dead and it wasn't going to be a HEA, so I loved the wrap. Zombie seemed more rushed to me. Different strokes, I guess.

    I prefer dark and twisty myself, in fact that's what hooked me (P2PC is really quite dark).

    Oh, and I agree Chaz and Philip were quite the team. I loved his "Damn, Chaz. That was almost fun." line. :)

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