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The Scent of Shadows (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – February 27, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Despite its romance pedigree (Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris contribute advance praise), this moody, fast-paced debut falls into the growing "dark fantasy" category, which blends fantasy, comic book superheroism and paranormal romance, but holds no promise of a happily-ever-after. The book's heroine, Joanna Archer, has spent the years following a brutal attack learning martial arts and trolling Sin City, Nev., for trouble. On the eve of her 25th birthday, she finds it in the form of a peculiar date who looks like a gaunt banker one moment and like hell spawn the next. Joanna fights her way out of his grasp, but her close encounter is only the beginning. Before long, she finds herself caught up in a world where a superhuman few—the Light—fight evil from the Shadow realm, a world in which she's recognized as the "Kairos," a prophesied warrior made up of both Shadow and Light who's destined to help Light prevail. Pettersson centers her story around the signs of the Zodiac, putting an imaginative spin on a familiar setup. Though graphic scenes (in which tongues are severed, heads ripped off, etc.) will repel some readers, others will embrace Pettersson's enduring, tough-as-nails heroine and anticipate gleefully the next volume, due in April. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“The Scent of Shadows came out of nowhere and slapped me silly. … You’re going to love this.” (Kim Harrison)
“...Read at your own risk —it’ll keep you up past your bedtime.” (Charlaine Harris)
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Top customer reviews
I liked the first half of The Scent of Shadows much better than the second, even though it's more character driven than I usually like. Joanna is going about life in a way that she thinks is best. She's a bit disconnected, preferring to stay behind her camera, but she's convinced herself it's for the sake of her art. The only person she's really close to is her younger sister, Olivia, who is her complete opposite, yet her anchor. Joanna learns a lot about herself and the world around her once she meets Warren and he tells her about the signs of the zodiac. After her blood filled birthday, she must become someone new in order to stay alive and protect others. It's all very dark and not very optimist, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The second part of The Scent of Shadows was a bit rough for me. It's where all of the action picks up and Joanna actually gets to try out her new abilities and fight the Shadows. However, my brain was preoccupied with the fact that she was just whisked away to the alternate reality where the Lights and Shadows have their headquarters. They went through a lot of trouble to give Joanna her new identity and make sure that it's flawless so no one would get suspicious, but they take her away from the real world for some unknown amount of time without any explanation or cover story in place. It's not like she's some unknown person in her new life; people will notice she's gone! And there's no indication as to how much time has passed. Perhaps it was a single night, in which case, no one may notice she's gone. But it felt a lot longer than that. I was hoping this would be explained once the fight was over and she was returned to the real world, but that doesn't pick up until three months later.
The Scent of Shadows has an amazing premise: a band of superheroes for each sign of the zodiac, and a Light and Shadow side that are warring. Joanna is, of course, different than anyone else and part of a prophecy, so that wasn't anything new, but everything else was unlike anything I had read before. Despite my confusion in the second half, I do think this was a promising start to the series and I was eager to learn more about this world.
The story isn't exactly fresh and original. If you've read urban fantasy you have seen the underlying themes explored in this book dozens of times. But the execution of the book, the writing and storytelling are well-done and engaging. If not exactly a new take on urban fantasy as a genre, it's at least an excellent example of it. You have your standard kick-ass heroine with super-powers, big baddies who are her nemeses, a world that exists alongside but hidden from the real world, and lots of angst. I really enjoyed the book and felt engaged enough to pay to read the continuing series, and I feel that is a glowing recommendation in itself.
The world-building didn't work terribly well for me. The story is told first-person from the heroine's point of view, and since she is thrust all unaware into the world of the Zodiac the reader is as well. Joanna has no idea what is going on half the time and information is doled out to her (and the reader) in dribs and drabs. I can't think of a good way for the author to avoid this other than an info-dump due to the constraints of the narration being from Joanna's point of view. Perhaps it is intentional, a way to build suspense and keep the reader guessing along with Joanna as to exactly what's up with the Zodiac and how it works.
The dialog felt natural and the characterizations felt real. Though it is an ongoing series, this book has a satisfying ending that doesn't force you to continue reading the series unless, like me, you really enjoyed it and wanted to continue reading about The Archer's adventures.
Kindle formatting was good.