Seressia Glass’s The Love Con indicated the author is someone who gets geek culture, so I was curious to see how she’d do as the author of an urban fantasy series. Shadow Blade is quite competent, with dashes of excellence.
Kira Solomon is a Shadowchaser, dedicated to fighting forces of Shadow on behalf of the Light. She is also “gifted” (it’s more of a curse) with the ability to read the histories of items and people she touches. (Even sandwiches can lead to an overwhelming sensory cascade if she’s not careful.) She uses this talent to assess and authenticate antiquities. When an old friend brings her an ancient Egyptian dagger, Kira realizes it’s dangerous beyond measure – and so are the two entities tracking it: one, an evil power and the other, the dagger’s former owner, a 4,000 year old Nubian warrior named Khefar tasked by the goddess Isis to atone for misdeeds by saving lives. Kira’s life is next on his list.
Some of this book is delightful and original. The author’s development of the Atlanta setting is great. I haven’t read a paranormal set in Atlanta before, and I grinned when the heroine had to take Peachtree everywhere. The gods and goddesses involved are African, for a change; some are ancient Egyptian and Nubian deities, such as Kira’s patroness Ma’at, and there’s also the mischievous Mr. Nansee, of the West African pantheon. I appreciated the explanation for why the gods themselves can’t just sort out the conflict – as Mr Nansee tells Kira:
“Think about it. The Universe is about Balance. If a demigod who stands in Light had interceded on your behalf, what would Shadow have brought in to balance me?”
(Of course, there’s still the question of why, if there is balance, any action is necessary at all?)
Kira is a vintage 2010s-era ass-kicker, but the author does one interesting thing here, which is address the unsustainability of her lifestyle. Kira mentions that Shadowchasers don’t live long, and fully expects to get killed by the time she’s in her thirties. A life of violence and revenge, even on behalf of the good guys, also threatens her own ‘good guy’ status. Khefar realizes that saving Kira may be about preserving her soul and her Light alignment as much as it is about keeping her from death.
So what are my issues? First, the prose. The writing can be repetitive, and there are long sections of worldbuilding infodump where I honestly glazed over. Second, while I appreciated some of the decisions made by the protagonists in the face of imminent danger (read: they don’t boink), Kira makes a dumb decision in the second half that left me smacking my head on the wall. I also felt that Khefar’s age wasn’t authentically part of his personality. He did not seem to have been shaped by the 4,000 years in between his deal with Isis and the present. Some authors write vampire creatures mentally overwhelmed by seeing everyone they ever meet age and die, and by an inability to endlessly adapt to the changing world around them. Khefar seamlessly has adapted to technology, vehicles, continents, and languages. It’s just too easy for him.
Still, this was a book I got strongly sucked into, and it was, I believe, Glass’s debut. I definitely recommend it as an overlooked success of the 2000s urban fantasy boom. The fact that the author’s recent work is even stronger than this means I’m quite hopeful for the second and third books in this series as well.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.