This is one of those books that’s incredibly difficult to grade because on one hand I liked it, but on the other there are problems that are extremely difficult to ignore. Often, the points that I enjoyed within the story were essentially the sources of the problems.
Created as a killing machine during the Civil War, Isaiah Jones, along with small secretive group of others like him, is both man and beast and unable to completely fit in either world. After the war, the group breaks from government control to venture on their own and live by their own strict code of rules and justice. In Isaiah’s own tormented world, he finds peace by simply watching Addy Cameron from a distance. However, when strangers capture Addy as revenge against her powerful family, Isaiah doesn’t hesitate even though he knows rules will be broken and an even more dangerous threat might arise when he saves her.
Ever since her captivity by Native Americans years earlier, Adelaide Cameron is determined to forge a life for herself without depending on others, namely her cousins. She’s built her life around her baking and her constant routines. Her serenity is disrupted when she is kidnapped once again and her life is threatened. From the darkness, a stranger arrives to help her and she quickly comes to depend on him just as he does her. And as the truth about Isaiah is slowly reveled, threats against Addy increase.
As the first in the Shadow Reapers series, Ms. McCarty has the task of world building. For me, the post Civil War West setting combined with paranormal elements is unique and interesting. In addition, the story itself is dark and somewhat vague in an almost intentional way. While I liked the vagueness because of the sense of mystery it provided, at the same time I wanted more details to fill in the gaps.
In terms of plot itself, this is simply another werewolf tale albeit with twists that make it different. There are werewolves, unknown to the majority of the human population, governing themselves and trying to create manageable lives. However, as I read, I often felt as though the dialogue left gaping holes in the plot and in many instances I had to reread in order to figure out who was thinking or speaking in order to determine point of view. Plus, more details as to the origins and hierarchy within Isaiah’s world might have made motivations clearer. Although, the story ends well, I wasn’t pleased with the HEA. A personal pet peeve of mine is when one character has to give up a great deal in order to be with the other and while I understand it is a demonstration of “true love,” I personally don’t like it because of the inequity in the relationship.
The heroine’s character was far more developed than the hero’s. She is on her own, experienced past trauma, has extended family, and has habits that provide comfort. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as likeable, she is sympathetic. However, I wanted to know more about Isaiah, who was the more interesting of the two in my opinion. At the beginning he is almost more animal than man with some creepy habits, which are made more acceptable if you visualize him as untamed. Addy is his soft spot and that comes across from the very beginning.
While I wasn’t exactly pleased with this installment, I look forward to seeing where Ms. McCarty takes the series and I hope that others in the series fill in the holes and answer lingering questions left by Reaper’s Justice.