Friday, March 05, 2010

[Review] 'Shadow Blade' by Seressia Glass

Title: Shadow Blade Writer: Seressia Glass Pages: 352 Genre: Urban Fantasy Standalone/Series: First in a series Publisher: Pocket Books For Kira Solomon, normal was never an option. Kira's day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos. Of course, sometimes Gilead bureaucracy is as much a thorn in her side as anything the Fallen can muster against her. Right now, though, she's got a bigger problem. Someone is turning the city of Atlanta upside down in search of a millennia-old Egyptian dagger that just happens to have fallen into Kira's hands. Then there's Khefar, the dagger's true owner — a near-immortal 4,000-year-old Nubian warrior who, Kira has to admit, looks pretty fine for his age. Joining forces is the only way to keep the weapon safe from the sinister Shadow forces, but now Kira is in deep with someone who holds more secrets than she does, the one person who knows just how treacherous this fight is. Because every step closer to destroying the enemy is a step closer to losing herself to Shadow forever.... As a reader, I have a fondness for the supernatural, especially if it uses our world, culture and trivia as a stage and setting. Urban fantasy is a weakness of mine I love to indulge. However, I have noticed a tendency in this oh-so-favorite genre of mine, which is frightening. I am aware that urban fantasy is in a rut and readers have accused it of recycling ideas and tropes. I agree with those people, but urban fantasy as a genre has a limited focus on female empowerment as well as fighting evil in the modern world. The conflicted, damaged tough chick with special quality, which ensures her a first row sit, when the shit starts flying, will remain as well as her so very special trait to experience a forbidden love. People want to read these tropes, so they will remain, but what hinders the new generation of authors, who enter the genre to shake things up and break the mold? Every well seasoned reader knows that everything has been done under the sun, so repetition of ideas is unavoidable. All that matters is execution, representation, world-building, prose and dialogue to make the difference. However, in the newest urban fantasy novels I don’t see even that aspiration. Heroines are mass-produced in thought process, in dialogue and even the pasts that should carve them out from the herd eerily echoes each other. A few weeks back I reviewed ‘Spider’s Bite’, which although generic and derivative in some areas had a few good hits. After starting ‘Shadow Blade’ almost immediately after, I swear to you I played ‘Spot the Differences’ between the two titles, which is never. I had a severe déjà vu experience. Kira has been turned into a killing machine for a secret organization [Estep’s Gin is an assassin and kills professionally]. Kira’s handler, an old man, whom she cherishes so much, has been murdered and triggers the events in the book [Gin’s handler is murdered as well and that triggers the plot as well]. Kira is assisted by a dangerous man against her will and although she is a solo player agrees reluctantly [Gin is forced to rely on her tall, dark and handsome as well]. Happy ending after a finale, where both heroines almost die? Yes, you got that too. Even when I stop comparing ‘Shadow Blade’ to ‘Spider’s Kiss’ derivative elements continue to pop up on my radar. Kira is the proverbial black sheep in the secret organization. She has a tragic past, which defines her and remains a central piece in her characterization. Everything is black and white in the supernatural world she inhabits, where Shadows fights against Light and whatever elements I loved didn’t come through fully fleshed or explored, due to Glass not exactly showing the reader, but telling and with overused word choices, I have encountered before. As far as the characters go, I really would have preferred reading about any other from the cast from the uptight Sanchez to Zoo and Wynne to the psychic vampire to even the main villain. But Kira and Khefar offered me no thrill to read. Verdict: [D] Ultimately, the newest cover version of a book I have read before.


SQT said...

Harry -- you sound a bit like me. I think the female empowerment thing is turning into a paranormal stereotype and it's getting old.

Harry Markov said...

I am for empowerment, really, but why can't there be different female empowerment.

How about a woman, who is powerful through kindness, compassion, being the moral and emotional pillar of the people saving the world?

Or why is she not a confident master strategist like the Oracle in the Batman universe?

Or a woman, who is positive and hopeful?

There are other women than Buffy and other kinds of empowerment. Just one archetype is not enough for this genre.

SQT said...

I think they're mistaking hard-headed snark for empowerment. Not every woman needs to be some kind of remorseless killer either.

One of the reasons I like the characters Charlaine Harris and Patricia Briggs create is that they're not fighters. They're not weak, but they're not some kind of trained ninja. They're just ordinary women caught up in strange circumstances. Much more believable that way.

Harry Markov said...

Indeed. Physical power does not equal empowerment.

Being passive as in not getting your hands bloodied does not mean that a woman is weak or anything. There are different sorts of power and thus different characters to explore.

Stewart Sternberg said...

This subgenre is getting old pretty quick. If I see one more cover with a woman's torso and a blade of some kind, I'll scream.

I don't think these novels are about empowerment. I think the characters are flat and much of this type of novel is little more than wish fulfillment tinged with sex.Often the two are interchangeable

Avery DeBow said...

Stewart, YES! More than anything, I fear those covers!!

Urban fantasy is indeed starting to tunnel into a sort of pulpy escapism for women bored with their lives. It's the new ten-cent romance. And while that's fine in and of itself--let's give the stories a story. Some originality and depth would help, as well.

Joss Whedon (who remains a part of my personal pantheon) started this with Buffy. But, it has grown way out of control. Not every female protagonist needs to spew one-liners like diesel truck emissions. Not every ending has to be happy. Not every guy needs to an X-hundred-year-old, brooding, He-Man type. And not every ending has to be happy. Oh, I said that one already. Sorry. I just really, really mean that one.

I love kickass female protagonists, but there needs to be a little more depth to most of them, and a lot more depth to their stories.

SQT said...

Avery-- the one-liners drive me crazy. Awhile back I was sent an ARC in the genre and within 2 pages I was ready to hurl the book across the room. Nothing but the stereotypes you just named. Exactly.