Destiny: Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1 by S. M. Spencer

Destiny

Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1

by S. M. Spencer

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Vampires

Four Stars

Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.

Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.

Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.

The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.

I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.

Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.

Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet.

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The Secret Eater by Ros Jackson

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The Secret Eater

 by Ros Jackson

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban

Five stars

Kenssie is a demon who eats secrets. Her mission in life is to creep into humans’ minds and devour the energy from their secrets. Her other missions include: pleasing her Master, Rakmanon, stirring up humiliation for him to feed on, and figuring out what is happening to her power. She is growing weaker and she doesn’t know why. The Demon Council offers no help, instead poking fun at her and kicking her out of their chambers. Her Master can’t seem to help her either.

But a part-demon witch named Permilia may have the answer to her problem. Should she risk angering the Council by stealing a magical tome from them or should she just accept her waning power and all the danger that comes with it?

Ros makes it easy to suspend disbelief with her quick fanciful story. Normally I don’t want to root for the success and wellbeing of demons, but Kenssie was such a relatable character. The tale proceeded from just her perspective and I found it easy to sympathize. She must try to complete difficult and dangerous tasks under the authority of unreasonable and downright evil authorities. She has to figure out how to think for herself and do the best she can with very little support or information. I can relate to that. While I read Kenssie’s adventures and hoped for her success, I kept remembering, “Oh, yeah. She’s a demon who feeds off of humanity.” I reflected a lot on the ability to see from someone else’s perspective. It also gave me a little sense of pleasant danger through the tale.

I would have liked to know more about the mechanics of the world Ros created. Kenssie didn’t seem entirely evil and I wondered how that fit into the story. Most of the demons seemed less than fully evil and mostly concerned with themselves and their pet obsession. Part of the reason the story appealed to me is that I’m highly interested in intelligent perspectives on evil and good, the afterlife, and the supernatural. Ros’ world fascinated me but left me with a lot of questions.

The short and sweet tale seemed to set the stage for possible future volumes. I wanted to know about Kenssie’s relationship with Rakmanon, how that started, and what he really had in mind. He is a demon, but she is too. Does he care about her? What is the deal about her incomplete information about whether she is full demon or not?

Please write more, Ros! I really like Kenssie the secret-eating demon. (Did I really just write that?)

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

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