I hate giving bad reviews on this blog, and I try my best to only read things that I know have a chance of getting four- or five-star reviews. But once in a while it’s inevitable that I come across a book that isn’t quite there. Shadows of the Past suffers from the same malady that many indie-published books have in common: terrible editing and proofreading and weak writing skills. (Not all indies have this problem, of course. I’ve read many books by talented writers that are perfectly edited and proofed.) For those readers who can look past the mistakes and see only the story, I admire you for being able to turn off that part of your brain. Unfortunately, I’m not like that. I take everything into consideration when writing a review, and if my reading experience is hindered by bad writing and editing, then my review will reflect that. Shadows of the Past has multiple writing and editing mistakes on every page, and this was so distracting that it took me several weeks to read this book. But despite these issues, there were many things I did enjoy about this book, and I’d like to talk about those next.
The story of Kirsa and her vampire and were-animal friends is unique in that the vampires are not the bad guys. When the story begins, Kirsa has left her job as an OPIA (Occult and Paranormal Investigation Agency) operative and is enjoying a break from police work. But a series of murders in her hometown of Grabenberg, New Jersey compels her to return to the painful scene of the destruction of her ancestral home. Someone is targeting paranormal creatures that are protected under the Paranormal Laws and killing them in violent and horrific ways. With her vamp boyfriend Ayden by her side, Kirsa must face the horrors in her past and solve the murders before other paranormals are killed. Cryptic messages are found at each crime scene that seem to be written just for Kirsa, and Kirsa and Ayden begin to suspect that someone in their midst is handing over secret information to the enemy, a group known as the Church of Light who believe vampires and other paranormal creatures should be destroyed. During the investigation, Kirsa will discover secrets about herself that could change her life forever.
I found the characters to be refreshingly original and likeable. I loved the idea that the vampires were the good guys and were only trying to co-exist peacefully with humans. Most of the violence and bloodshed is caused by the humans associated with the Church of Light, and I was surprised how civilized and non-violent the vampires were in this story. Kirsa herself is interesting in that she has a “condition” that forces her to drink blood, although she isn’t exactly a vampire. The world-building in Shadows of the Past was intricate and at times confusing, but I can appreciate the hard work that went into creating these nuances. The book was well-grounded with police procedural elements that made it feel like I wasn’t in a fantasy world, but rather a real world that just happened to have fantasy aspects to it.
Jensen also gives us a twist on the vampire character by creating different types of vampires. In her world, some vamps can go out in the sunlight with no adverse effects, while others have skin that melts the moment the sun touches it. These details really added to the strong story-telling aspects of the book. But strong story-telling and pacing aside, Jensen needs to work on the mechanics of writing and creating sentences that flow better, in order to do her story justice.
I know the author is going to have this book re-edited soon, which I was very happy to hear. With the mistakes corrected, I can recommend Shadows of the Past, but until then I’ll have to say “reader beware.”
Thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.