Aria Naveed is a mercenary and a pretty good one; but one with a secret. She’s a pyrokinetic, when she gets angry, things burn. This makes her very deadly – but very much in demand
But when her investigation into the death of murdered child uncovers a complicated plot that could bring the vampire Coven and shapeshifter pack to open warfare, she finds her secret perilously close to be revealed
And an intriguing stranger is ready to recruit her – but even with her long dead family involved, she’s unsure about exactly what it is he wants her to join
I was immensely frustrated by the writing in this book. It is so terribly overwritten and full of redundancy and repetition that it made it a bit of a slog to read. Descriptions maundered on for far too long, dialogue was just a bit too long winded to be taken seriously, everything was drawn out and repeated over and over in an attempt to establish setting and theme while failing to do either. Like the opening scene of the book is Ari being upset about a dead child – but she maunders on for so long, repeating herself in the most melodramatic way that any actual emotional impact the scene could have is just rather lost.
Or there’s how she describes Mike, her colleague at the mercenary agency, is no longer in peak shape for active duty:
“Did he seriously think he was up for this? I mean he was great and all but he’d been playing desk duty ever since the day he hired me. And in those two years, Mike had visibly grown soft in the most literal way. A good twenty pounds of softness if you asked me. He was nowhere near the shape he needed to be in to hunt down murderous vampires. At best he’d slow me down, at worst, he’d get both of us killed. Having Mike along was a liability and he knew it.”
Just look at the redundancy in that paragraph! The point was made by “the day he hired me” but we have to revisit it in 5 more sentences each saying exactly the same thing. Or there’s this on how vampires don’t like sunlight:
“The draperies though, I assumed were either new or had been relined to block out the sun during daylight hours. Vampires were not impervious to the sun but neither did they particularly care for it. It had something to do with their chemical makeup and the reaction sunlight caused. There was a reason that legend said vampires couldn’t go out in the sun they were almost right on that point. The truth of the matter though is that if exposed to the sun for a long enough length of time, their bodies experienced something like an allergic reaction. The effects varied based on a vampire’s age, the newer vampires were able to withstand the sun’s harsh rays for a longer length of time since their bodies contained more moisture. If they were less than five hundred years old, they could typically withstand sun exposure for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour as long as it wasn’t direct. Any old and the vampire’s skin would begin to wither and if they were out for more than a minute or two, they would die. It had something to do with the lack of water contained in their bodies after the change and the sun basically causing extreme dehydration. I’d seen a vampire die from sun exposure before. Several years ago when I was visiting Seattle, Washington the local Coven decided to make a demonstration. I wasn’t sure what the crime had been but the coven tied a vampire to a post in the middle of Pike Street Market with silver chains and left him for dead. When dawn came and the sun began to rise the vampire’s skin began to boil and blister. Within minutes his body had withered to a dry husk. Within an hour, he has deteriorated further and nothing but ash remained. It was a ghastly sight and the stench of the burned, rotting flesh was one I’d never forget.”
Good gods WHY?! Even aside from the fact the mere description of the draperies being lined in the very first sentence gave us ALL the information we needed to know, this vast dump makes no sense (even ignoring the sentence that suggests the author doesn’t know what “not impervious” actually means). Is the vulnerability an allergic reaction, chemical make up or dehydration? If the latter how do they “blister and boil”. If allergic, how do they turn to dust. If burning how come they smell rotten? Don’t try to EXPLAIN a supernatural element if you don’t actually have an explanation and are just throwing word salad around (also, Seattle is in Washington there’s no need to specify).
This is how the whole book is written – the same thought will be reworded 4 or 5 times to hammer home points that really don’t need hammering home.
The worst part of this is that it’s not actually a very long book and so much of it is spent on redundancy that there’s a sore lacking in development. A character dies, for example, and clearly this is supposed to be a devastating loss to Ari but we’ve had very little development of this character and of his relationship to Air.
Similarly, one of the characters she begins to form a connection with seems to turn on her – but it happened pretty soon after she met him, there hasn’t been a whole lot of work in making that connection real and tangible. Even Ari’s relationship with her mother, which becomes especially relevant, is shallow and completely fails to deliver any emotional impact
There are also lots of things hinted at that haven’t really been expanded on. When the supernatural was revealed to the world (how? Why?) society and civilisation seemed to collapse. Now one thing that was really well done was presenting all these little hints to the dystopian world without overwhelming it (such as treating pain killers as a huge luxury) but there’s no real indication WHY society collapsed. Another example is where Ari‘s father decided to train her how to fight as soon as he learned she was a psychic, even criticising her for having long hair that was a liability in combat. But there’s no connection as to why learning she was a psychic drove him to train her in battle – no indication she would be attacked or that her attackers couldn’t simply be burned to death or even if fighting techniques were a way to focus and control her powers. It’s like someone saying they realised they had a legendary talent for bass so their dad taught them the intricacies of fly fishing; it’s just presented as an obvious thing when the connection completely eludes me. Or there’s her panicky claustrophobia which, again, begs for some explanation or development (though “tragic past” is stamped large all over her).
Sadly, I can’t say I’m a big fan of the plot. Again, I have to emphasise that this isn’t a very long book so there’s not a lot of space. So when a substantial chunk of the book is given over to a very shallow love triangle, complete with her having lots of sexy thoughts about James and falling in insta-lust with Inarus, all in the middle of trying to solve the murder of a child and stop a war was pretty frustrating. It had no real compelling
To finish that off, the actual mystery wasn’t that mysterious (you want your organisation to sound like something a character would want to join? Don’t call it PsyShade. Seriously. Evil Geniuses United or Bad Guys Social Club would be more subtle). Most of it was predictable and Ari solved what she did simply because the Coven (vampires) and Pack (shapeshifters) were apparently so gung-ho for war (or written as lacking logic simply because it makes Ari look better) that they missed the blatant attempt to drive them both into a mutually destructive battle. The actual big bad that is behind it all appears briefly but, again, isn’t really developed – and the book ends without really addressing anything. The murder isn’t solve, some monsters that attacked Ari are never really explained, the defeat of the enemies is more of a twist you’d normally find in the middle of the book. This is didn’t feel like a cliffhanger set up for book 2 – it felt like book 1 simply hadn’t been finished.