On the top of the front cover, Shadow Bound proclaims itself a “GUARANTEED READ” and on the very last page, the publisher elaborates by saying, “We are so confident that you will enjoy this book that we are offering a 100% money-back guarantee” up to a certain point in time with receipt included, etc. (The deadline was sometime last year, so even if I had the receipt, I was out of luck in that respect. Nevertheless…) I was intrigued by a publisher that was so much behind their book that they’d offer a guarantee — even a limited one — so I started reading with high hopes.
Unfortunately, it didn’t … well, it didn’t deliver in the way I hoped it would. Death (the Grim Reaper — named “Shadowman” in the novel) has his way with a young, sick woman with whom he’s been in love for a long time. She becomes pregnant and dies shortly after the baby, Talia, is born. Skip ahead twenty-six years later and … Talia is all grown up and just finished earning a PhD in what can only be described as paranormal studies; her dissertation is called An examination of common motifs described in near-death experiences. As she heads out for an interview, a couple of men attack her and her roommate in their house, killing the latter and forcing Talia’s escape to the streets, where she lives on the run for a month, not understanding why she was attacked in the first place.
Adam, a man who manages to single-handedly financially support an entire institute, full staff included, for the study of Wraiths (the men who attacked Talia, she later finds out, were Wraiths), searches for Talia and finds her just in the nick of time. He learns that Talia can use shadows as a kind of cloak to hide herself from the world because she’s half-fae, literally Death’s daughter. They discover together that Talia actually has other powers she hadn’t known about — something that will help them in their quest to rid the world of the Wraiths, which are depicted as unqualified evil. In the meantime, they struggle with and eventually give in to their attraction for each other.
Well, I did read Shadow Bound all the way through (“GUARANTEED READ” and all that), and it was enjoyable in sort of a forgettable way. The writing is flowery and dense in places, but that’s not a bad thing considering the content; it struck me as Victorian in style with a good dose of lust and sex thrown in to make things interesting. The Wraiths were pretty two-dimensional; they were definitely evil from the very beginning, without complexity or inner conflict. Even the Wraith we see the most of — Jacob, Adam’s brother, who is the reason Adam started the institute in the first place — isn’t exactly endearing or even sympathetic. Not that I want antagonists to be sympathetic necessarily, but I think life isn’t as black-and-white as these antagonists seem to imply.
The most interesting character I found was Custo, Adam’s best friend and righthand man, but he was barely in the book. The story, after all, doesn’t follow him. I wanted to know why he was so loyal to Adam and dedicated to the cause, but I never found out …. Custo eventually meets what I think is supposed to be a gruesome end, but no matter how many times the Wraiths’ “kiss” was described, I just didn’t find it that scary or horrible. (Well, except that it causes death, of course.)
I felt like I had to put my brain on hold to read this: like it was good beach reading, though it didn’t strike me as great content for beach reading. But, I almost never go to the beach and, if I did, I wouldn’t spend my time there reading. I’m told there’s another book that continues the story, but I won’t be picking it up because this story just didn’t interest me that much.
[VE Duncan is still learning and searching on her Pagan path. She’s reviewed for Elevate Difference, a feminist review blog; written for Otaku Project, which focuses on anime, manga, and gaming; and works as an editor for Hippocampus, a creative nonfiction magazine, and Stanley the Whale, a collaboration that publishes strange and quirky fiction. She has a cantankerous cat named Cleopatra. V.E. can be contacted through her website, Duncan Heights.]