Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

I’ll be honest – I didn’t have very high expectations when I started this novel. This book fits squarely into that sub-genre residing between horror and fantasy, with a touch of erotica, starring vampires, werewolves, and other baddies with an ass-kicking femme fatale with a dark past and problems in her love life getting thrown into a truly shocking and horrifying situation. These books just aren’t my thing – often too cliché, predictable, and gratuitous for my taste. So, it was very pleasant surprise that I enjoyed this book.

The Scent of Shadows is not a vampire book or a book about any monster we’ve read about before. Pettersson takes her time to introduce something new – basically a supernatural race of good guys and bad guys fighting it out behind the scenes of us mere mortals. We don’t have pantheon of gods and monsters – just a bunch of super-humans battling in the age old good versus evil struggle, and what better place for this battle than Las Vegas. Fans of Vegas will enjoy this new side of Sin City from an insider’s point of view.

Joanna Archer is the definition of a disturbed, independent woman with a number of issues to work out. Subconsciously searching for the man that raped and left her for dead when she was a child, Joanna has become removed from family and friends, having only her camera and martial arts as support. Let’s cut to it – bad things happen and in the process she learns that she is more than human – she is a born superhero that has been long hidden from both the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys are in danger of loosing it all and Joanna is the key to their survival or elimination.

In a bit of strange effort, Pettersson has attempted to combine this good versus evil struggle with comics. The activities of the Zodiac Troup 175 (yes, that really is what they are called) are mirrored in comic books – two sets, one for the shadow and one for the light (and you can’t read the opposing team’s comics). This sets up one of the more amusing and scenes in the book where our beautiful femme fatale squares off against a bunch of comic store geeks. The problem is that this aspect of the story was half developed at best – it needed to be fully fleshed out or left out altogether. As written it amounts to basically nothing but filler.

Yes, this book is as clichéd as it sounds. It’s predictable too. The writing is inconsistent – the first sentence of the book alone was almost enough to make me stop reading. The thing is that in spite of all that, I couldn’t put the book down. Pettersson sets the mood and grips you, not letting go. I wanted to know what happened next – I needed to know. Joanna turns out to be a fascinating character, and even with what little we see of others, they have a bit of depth as well.

The Scent of Shadows is a book that can’t be put down, and I really enjoyed reading it. However, with the shortcomings mentioned above, and a few not mentioned, it only partially succeeds. Fans of Kim Harrison and Laurell K. Hamilton will likely not only not notice, but absolutely love this book. For me, it gets 6.5 out of 10. I really wanted to rate it much lower, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed it and literally couldn’t put it down. As I said initially, it was a pleasant surprise.

Of course a book like this is literally made for sequels. While it stands well on its own, much is left unresolved for future adventures. The Taste of Night will be this continuation, being released shortly after The Scent of Shadows.


Carl V. said...

Your initial description of the plot sounds alot like Night Watch, the first of the hit Russian sci fi trilogy that is being made into films. Have you seen the Night Watch movie? Loved it and highly recommend it:

Neth said...

I have not scene the movie Night Watch, but I have a copy of the Book and hope to get to it in the next month or two. I won't see the movie until after I read the book (if at all).

Carl V. said...

It is really well done, I highly recommend it.


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