Stars: 3.5 out of 5
This is an interesting first book in an exciting new urban fantasy series. I will definitely follow this author for updates.
I especially loved the magic system and the magic world. It is different from the common werewolves/vampires/witches or fairies, etc. fare. Here we have normal humans all around, only some of them have quickened shadows that allow them to perform feats that can be considered magic. The system has limitations and the magical abilities of the shadows are specialized. And the shadow quickening requires life energy, mostly in the form of blood. Usually, the practitioner feeds the shadow with small amounts of his/her own blood, but more unscrupulous ones have been known to resort to blood sacrifices.
I also liked our protagonist. She is flawed and, in some ways, a total screw-up. But considering her upbringing, I am surprised she manages to be a more or less functioning human being at all. Yes, Charlie is a screw-up that is known for notoriously bad choice, especially when it comes to men she dates. But she is also very good at her chosen profession, even if this profession is a thief and con artist. Charlie is at her best when she is the Charlatan. Her life might be in shambles, but when she is working a job, she possesses magic of her own, which consists of good instincts and a visceral knowledge of people’s behavior.
I am definitely interested in sticking around for a bit and explore this world more in the next books, but the story itself was a little underwhelming, once we got past the awesome worldbuilding and into the meat of the intrigue.
Fist of all, it’s confusing and the motivation behind some of the things the different characters do is thin to non-existent. For example, why did the Hierophant kill that guy in the alley in the beginning of the book? If the main villain knew that the book of shadows wasn’t lost at all, why send the Hierophant after the guy who claimed to have it?
And speaking of the villain, what was his end game exactly? Yes, he is evil. Yes, he is depraved. Yes, he is power-hungry. But what is it that he was trying to accomplish here? It’s never fully explained. Besides, as far as moustache-swirling villains go, he is so evil it’s bordering on ridiculous.
Another problem here is that apart from Charlie, the characterizations of all the other people in this book are thin at best, even cliched. There isn’t a single memorable character. Even the cat was blah, which is a big let down for a cat lover.
All in all however, I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, so I will definitely be willing to give book 2 a try as well. Hopefully now that the setup and worldbuilding is out of the way, the story and characterization can take the front seat.
PS: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.