Shadowflame (Shadow World #2) by Dianne Sylvan

Shadowflame - Dianne Sylvan
Trigger warning for discussions of violent homophobia and rape

Miranda has been Queen of the South for three months now.  As is custom, when she married her husband David Solomon, the Prime of the area, the other Primes pay a visit to show their respect of the new couple.  Although Miranda loves David, she is very new to the shadow world and still feels the call of her human life.  Learning to be Queen for Miranda means accepting that her 350 year old soulmate has had a long life without her and that comes with consequences. In between all of the political intrigue and trying to protect her human friends, Miranda has to come to terms with the new world that she has entered and all the costs that come with it.

Spoilers Ahead

When I read some of the reviews on Goodreads those who chose to give Shadowflame a low rating seemed largely to do so based on David's infidelity.  Obviously, these are people who go into an urban fantasy/ paranormal romance book with the belief that once a couple pair up that they shouldn't deal with real world problems.  I understand that there might be some who find David's infidelity a problem based on this; however, the problems with Shadowflame extend far beyond that.

In this book we learn that David had a past same-sex relationship of 10 years with Deven. There could be a lot of positive to say about having a bisexual co-protagonist - except the book makes it very very very clear that he's totally not bi, honest (there's more than a whiff of no homo about the whole thing)

This just sets the tone for the depiction of the same sex relationships involved. David and Deven split up not because of actual reasons but because of the magical Signet (which now demands David be with Miranda and Deven with Johnathon - screw true love, the Bling has spoken). While we could view this as a tragedy that magic has destroyed a long term, loving relationship, instead what we see is the spiteful, conniving Devon trying to steal Miranda's man (how very dare he!). Her relationship with David is presented as not only superior in her eyes (she decides she has the advantage because she "has a vagina" yes, penis + vagina is the one true relationship!) but also in general depiction - with Deven and Jonathon's relationship being almost chaste and certainly less passionate and powerful than Miranda and David.

To rub some salt into the wounds, we also have David described as "swishy",  by Kat, Miranda's best friend. Miranda and Kat then proceed to fetishise the idea of David and Deven together and, to crown it all, Deven apparently working long term to make sure Miranda and David got together. Yes, this gay man devoted time and energy to bring his true love together with a woman to form a Real and Proper bling-sanctioned relationship.

Honestly, I could go on for pages about the trainwreck here (I haven't even touched on the gratuitous and graphic depiction of homophobia or the implication that Deven is bitter and nasty because of his origins that Miranda happily clubs him with), but the review would end up ridiculously long, especially considering the other many many problems with this book.

I'm starting to think that no Shadow World book is complete without some form of gratuitous rape involved. In this case, Prime Hart comes to pay his respects to the new couple and with him he brings his string of sex slaves.  Prime Hart tortures these women, starves them and rapes them repeatedly. Though Hart keeps a stable of nine women, he chooses only to bring four of them on his state visit. Sylvan includes a very graphic description of Cora's rape. It's gratuitous and made further problematic by Cora's suggestion that women who give up after years of torture, rape and starvation are weak. Everyone in the Shadowworld is aware of how Hart treats women and yet no one intervenes.  This is explained by the misogyny of the Shadowworld which seems to dictate that women are to be silent and stand behind their men.  When Miranda brings this to the attention of David, he is unwilling to risk a war to free these women.  David expressly forbids Miranda to intervene unless one of the women asks for sanctuary.  To be clear, we are supposed to think of David as a complicated man but a good man but good people don't allow four women to be raped under their roof without trying at least to intervene.



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