I’ve found that I tend to drift more toward darker books. I read widely across the spectrum, but the ones that really resonate with me have that core of darkness. I like the complication of muddying the waters with gray characters and I like the complexity that comes from slightly twisted situations. I wouldn’t say that Shadow Kin is a dark book, per se, but I wouldn’t call it light. The heroine has that complexity to her and I found myself fascinated by the twisted existence she had been forced into.
Lily (Shadow) was sold at birth to a Blood Lord (vampire). She’s a wraith and has the ability to slip into shadows. Wraiths are abominations in most people’s eyes, so Lily is trapped in the only existence she’s ever known. Lucius, the Blood Lord, raises her and trains her to be his pet assassin. He is not a nice man and her whole life has been filled with pain and fear. Lately, Lucius has become obsessed with her and has become even more vicious than usual. Lily fears for her future, but she has nowhere to go. He would hunt her relentlessly if she tried to escape.
Lily’s character was sad but authentic. She had been abused and beaten down her whole life. She wasn’t only physically abused either. Lucius played sick psychological games with her which left her unable to ever relax. He would go into a rage and beat her or he would become displeased by a failure of hers and would humiliate her. Lily is a strong character, but she’s emotionally fragile. She’s suspicious of any kindness or help offered to her, so someone like Simon is hard for her to understand. He looks at her and sees someone worth helping, regardless of what it costs him. Lily doesn’t want him to get involved in the darkness of her life and is ashamed of what he might learn about her. Fortunately for her, Simon is determined to help her whether she wants it or not.
Simon and Lily have a complicated relationship. They are drawn to each other, but they both are bound by skeletons from the past. They have a hard time trusting each other, though they want to. They are caught up in a complicated situation where they have to keep things from each other to stay true to their “side.” The tension and longing between them was very well done. This isn’t a Romance, but I found the star-crossed relationship between them compelling. At times I became angry at them for the choices they made—especially toward the end—but it didn’t keep me from being glued to the pages.
The middle of the book felt slow but I really liked the beginning and the end. At first I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about having alternating first person POV’s and I found the transition between them jarring—until I figured out that the symbols at the beginning of the chapter indicated whose POV it was—but I ended up really enjoying the style. In addition to developing the main characters well, Scott also created some fascinating side characters. Lucius, in particular, comes to mind. His relationship with Lily was complex and disturbing. Too often the villains are flat caricatures. You won’t get that with Lucius. He was dark and fascinating. I found Lily’s reaction to him believably conflicted, although I found it creepy. At one point she goes back to him and willingly sinks into his seduction so she can haze her mind and not have to think about the reality of what she is doing. I was very angry at her for this, but it cemented the vibe I had that Lily was behaving like an abuse victim; unable to keep from returning to her abuser and the life she’d grown accustomed to.
Although I liked Simon and his determination to be Lily’s hero, I thought he could be a right prick. He was quick to blame Lily whenever he learned about something she had kept from him but he never really internalized the fact that he kept just as much from her. His anger when he learned the truth about her twisted connection to Lucius made it hard to like him. He came down on her like a ton of bricks and blamed the victim of the situation. They eventually make up and apologize, but I felt that he was forgiven a little too easily.
Although I had a couple problems with the pace in the middle of the book and the behavior of certain characters, as mentioned, I found the story completely engrossing. This is my first book by this author, but it seems like she has a definite talent for creating intense, emotional stories. I’m definitely going to pick up the next book in this series when it comes out.
Permanent mercy has to be earned. A warning to choose the right side. Only in my world the sides weren’t right and wrong. They were my side and everybody else’s.
I’d be choosing me.