A. C. Arthur
October 2012, Paranormal Romance
St. Martin's, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312549113 Part of a series
If you canít get enough of those men in shit-kickers who love a tough urban brawl, I have some good news: another author has decided to add her voice to the urban romance fantasy genre. The Shadow Shifters are a group of cat people who originally hale from deep in the Gungi Rain Forest. The North American faction finds themselves dealing with a bad cat named Sabar and his band of Rogues who are putting dangerous drugs on the street as the start of their world domination. The author has added some interesting spin to her take on a brotherhood of heroes tale. Unfortunately, that spin didnít breathe new life into an overused plot.
At the start of the tale, all the players are in the Gungi. Sabar has returned there for nefarious reasons of his own, and the North American East Coast Faction Leader and two of his lieutenants are there to speak to the Elders of the shifters. The visit gets off to an explosive start. Ary Serino, one of the healers in the shifter village, has been kidnapped. Nick Delgado, a lieutenant with the North American Faction, knew Ary several years ago --knew her both in the sense of having met her in the past and in the biblical sense of having spent one incredible night with her. But Nick was not what Aryís parents intended for her future and he had been sent back to North America, warned in no uncertain terms by her family and his to stay away. Now that she is gone, his cat is going crazy with the desire to find her. Nick shifts and along with his two friends races across the jungle to rescue her.
The rescue is successful and Ary is retrieved but not until she gets some barbs in regarding the clumsiness of her rescue squad. On the return trip home she and Nick find a few moments to relive their amazing night together, complete with an argument after the hot, steamy sex. The rescue party returns to the village full of bad humor and carrying even worse news. Sabar is creating a drug from a deadly jungle plant that is likely to kill all who take it. He is apparently trying to change the chemistry so that it makes women pliant and ready for sex, something he is sure will be a big seller. (I had to ask myself: who he was planning to sell to, date rapists?) The drug has other uses he hopes to take advantage of as well. The real kicker for Ary is that her family is actually helping Sabar develop the drug. Knowing that the jungle is no longer a safe place for her, she reluctantly leaves for the States with Nick and the North American Faction.
Once there Ary moves in with Nick and we learn all about fated mates and dominant, protective males. Nick is a lawyer for a profession but aside from the mention of a case that he has you would never know it. He doesnít pull regular office hours at all. Instead everyone hangs out at the Faction Leaderís house (FL) and talks about how they will deal with Sabar. Nick and Ary fight. They have sex. They fight some more. He tries to explain the role of females in their society to her and they fight again. Some stuff happens with Sabar. More sex and fighting. The guys hang out and you can see how close they all are. Eventually Nick and Ary acknowledge their feelings for each other and their destined mating. There is some more fighting and we realize that nothing will really be resolved because this is a series and we have someone elseís book to get to.
The whole time I was reading this I couldnít help thinking of Wardís Black Dagger Brotherhood. I am not talking in terms of plagiarism, but rather that sense you get when one novel has been influenced by another. The North American Shifter Faction is set up like the Brotherhood with the faction leader taking the place of the King and the shifter powers taking the place of all the vampire stuff in the other novels. Like the Brothers, the Shadow Shifters are all together almost all the time unless they are one on one with their women. They have that whole secret society-within-a-society thing going and they work hard at staying hidden. They are in an urban setting and fighting a war that involves drugs. But it is the language and attitudes that really make them seem like a version of the BDB. The endless use of the term ďfemale,Ē the dominant, protective attitude of the men, and how they refer to themselves as a group are all very familiar to fans of the vampire series.
On the bright side there are differences. One nice Ė and important- deviation is that the heroines donít need quite as much protection. At one point the three primary ďfemalesĒ are in the house and are attacked. They fight off their attackers and escape on their own. It isnít that the women of the BDB are weak, but they arenít fighters. These women prove again and again that they are, so it seems a bit ludicrous that the men are as protective as they are. Another nice deviation is that while they do have shamans and spirits, there is no weird Scribe Virgin or other deity involved. Magic plays a very minor role here.
On to the romance: I didnít get a good sense of Nick and Ary as individuals. I know Ary doesnít want to be the little woman and very much wants to be active in the world of shifters. But what does she like to do in her free time besides have sex with Nick? No idea. And she made a shockingly easy transition to the modern world from the rainforest. I would have expected her to miss something about her old home. The food? The rain? The scent of the plants and animals as opposed to diesel and cleansers? Yet she never seems to look back once she is in the states. Nick I know nothing about except that he is a protective, dominant male with a compassionate heart when it comes to the females. As a couple they didnít work for me because they argued so much. Apparently, thatís ďloveĒ in some peopleís book but itís not in mine.
I was disappointed in the relationship but also in the story because I felt that there were some things here that could have been explored that would have given the books a really interesting, fresh look at the paranormal world. What would it be like to be a lawyer who shifts into a jaguar? How would medicine work when you could smell disease? One of the characters wants to deny her shifter status; what would that be like? What about life in the jungles of Brazil Ė how would the everyday of that compare to the everyday of the United States? These all existed under the surface but none of them were really explored.
Those disappointments didnít make the book bad Ė they just kept it from being great. In the end it read like many, many other paranormals I have read and landed smack in the middle in terms of quality.
Overall I would say if you love the BDB books and need something to tide you over between novels The Shadow Shifters series might be just the book for you. Otherwise, there is nothing here you havenít read before.
-- Maggie Boyd
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