A Kiss of Shadows
Warning: This book is not a romance novel. Do not read it expecting a loving relationship between a man and woman. Do not read this book if you cannot stand polygamous relationships. Do not read this book if you don’t like a lot of sex. And, finally, do not read this book if you have a weak stomach that cannot stand descriptions of blood and gore. On the other hand, if you enjoy a story produced by a vivid imagination and fondness for those fairytales of old (that is, before Disney got hold of them) this is definitely the book to read.
This is the first story in a new series about Merry Gentry, AKA Princess Meredith NicEssus, royal princess of the Unseelie court and third in line to the throne. Since Meredith is not full blood Sidhe (faery), but instead is part Brownie – and even worse, part mortal – the royal family finds her unworthy. For self-preservation, Meredith had fled the royal court three years prior to the beginning of the story to hide amongst the mere mortals of Los Angeles as a private investigator specializing in cases of magic and the supernatural. Unfortunately she takes on a case that reveals her true self to the faery-fascinated public and brings her to the attention her Aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness. The Queen sends her Darkness, Doyle, to retrieve Meredith, because she has a special request that only Meredith can fulfill. But can Meredith stay alive long enough to reach the Queen’s court?
It takes a while to warm up to Meredith. She lacks the sharp, dry humor of Hamilton’s other famous heroine Anita Blake, but Meredith has her own wit and charm. The story is told through her eyes, and it is through Meredith that the reader learns which characters to trust and which to fear. Meredith is rather plain amongst a cast of fascinating characters – from her fey boss who’s been known to run a three minute mile in Gucci loafers, to the Queen’s Darkness, a Sidhe guard (who is not chocolate brown like many African Americans, but truly black like an Egyptian statue carved from ebony), to the goblin Kitto who is more pet than person.
Ms. Hamilton has created a complete and believable alternate reality here – a world where the public clamors for news of the faery royalty like we do the British royals in our own world. Every word in this book is part of a picture that grows larger and more colorful as the story continues, overcoming weak spots in the plot and characterization, pulling the reader in until they want to curl up in the tapestry Ms. Hamilton has sewn for the imagination. It’s a world where there are tall and willowy faeries with ankle-length hair, glowing skin, and tri-colored eyes. There are also the tiny demi-fey with butterfly wings that sit in tiny doll-like thrones on shelves, and goblins whose ideal of beauty is what we consider deformities, such as extra legs and rings of eyes like a necklace draped over the head.
At first, the amount of sex in this book bothered me; and let be known there is a lot, from innuendo, to foreplay, to out and out intercourse, with mentions of bondage and sadism thrown in the mix – and one attempted rape. The thing is, none of it is gratuitous. It is part of the characterization and the plot. Sex is used in this story for healing, to represent emotion, as a form of dialogue, for power plays, and is a key plot point in the end. It amazed me there was so much use of sex, especially considering seventy-five percent of the male characters in the book have been sworn to celibacy for nearly a thousand years under penalty of death. Talk about frustration!
I did find it a little distracting when the detective agency setup was dropped after the first few chapters for the real story of the Unseelie court. Speaking of the Unseelie, I kept confusing the term with Seelie, and Sidhe, and Fey, it really would have helped to have a glossary of terms in the book. I am not familiar with faery mythology and was often lost since it was taken for granted that the reader knew the different terminology for each type of fey creature. And the sheer number of characters is at times overwhelming. I never really felt I got to know any of them as much as I wanted to, except for Merry. Yet, since this book is setting up a series, I expect we will be seeing more of these characters.
Overall, I found the book fascinating. It took me a few chapters to warm up to the story, but will definitely be watching for the next installment. Besides, I need to find out if any of Meredith’s lovers can win her heart or fulfill the Queen’s request.