LMM's Reviews > Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan
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's review
Nov 19, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: paranormal-pnr, overrated
Read from October 26 to November 19, 2010

Hmmmm...well there wasn't anything wrong with this book it's just that it wasn't terribly surprising, complex or dynamic. The foreshadowing alone was about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Hello title?

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not hating on it. It just is what it is.


So the book is called Queen of Shadows. We meet tortured artist Miranda Grey who within the 1st 4 chapters (bare with me now b'c this is the setup & it's a lot) we learn is an empath & in severe misery, suffering physically & emotionally b'c of this burden.

She's then brutally gang raped, manages to murder her rapists while on the verge of dying only to be saved just in time by the major duomo of vampires, "Prime" David Solomon.

(As an entire side note.. why the flip does almost every UF heroine bar a few, have to have had some sort of sexual assault, trauma etc. in order to have a jumping off point for their emotional growth or supposed badassery? Can't these authors find anything more original to exploit? This overused plot device leave me pissed off, esp. when I find the context gratuitous as in this book).

Anyway, back to he summary, The Prime takes her in like a stray pup, nourishes her back to health & plans on teaching her how to shield so he can swat her on the ass when she's all better & tell her, "now go out there & be somebody!" OK, that's a sarcastic summary of intention b'c nevertheless, pretty much spot on.

We learn a bit... that there is a Signet (a magical necklace) that alights when a new "Prime" is in the house (basically a vampire version of the voting system without the democracy). The Signet also chooses the Prime's King or Queen (think arranged marriage or as most in the book looked at it - meant to be).

So there you have it. Four chapters in & can we guess what's going to happen between Miranda & David?

The fact that it was so blatant, I gave it the benefit of doubt & surmised this must be more of a character driven story & therefore, it's really about watching the relationships blossom. So I just shrugged my shoulders & kept reading.

However, that wasn't the case b'c if it was, their blossoming relationship would have been the focus & instead, I felt gypped of the interactions between David & Miranda, esp. from the time they were decidedly & openly in love with one another & that declaration only came approx 75% the way into the book.

I'm thinking that it might be more of a case of 1st time novelist syndrome.

With that being said, I think Sylvan might get better. Her prose started off pretty good. No OTT melodrama in spite of the material, however the prose turned purple as soon as Miranda was rescued & it's probably the only thing that did surprise me about the book given the tone at the start. I do feel Sylvan went into Mary Sue/Gary Stu territory. The ending I thought was pure cheese, especially the Epilogue.

And thanks to that extravagant prose, there's a line that's uttered by Miranda during the Grand Finale which put it over the edge for me & earned the eye rolls.

I also just didn't get jazzed about David & Miranda's chemistry although I liked each character decently enough, their pacing didn't ring true for me.

Also the plot twist?...Not so much.

Again - the rest of the hint dropping/foreshadowing was too much of an obvious map.
And that map got drawn & re-drawn over & over for us readers time & again, pretty much a bludgeoning us w/regard to what's going to happen thereby taking all the suspense out of it.

There's that sledgehammer I mentioned again. And b'c of this lack of finesse, it didn't have any of that complexity or dynamism I was expecting, esp. after the heavy hitting start. So for me, it was pretty much redundant.

I won't get into all the specifics regarding the redundancies or how/why there was a lack of foreshadowing to help make it truly compelling, only b'c there are too many to mention.

However, I'll just summarize a few to illustrate some bits of blandness regarding the whole set up (or lack of).

about 25% the way into the book, Jonathan (another Prime's lover) predicts Miranda dying via David - make connection back to the title & then David's v. early explanation of how to turn a vamp (2 ways).

About 40% the way into it, David has to kill someone who tries to infiltrate The Elite guard - make the logical assumption that this small attempt, foreshadows a larger more successful attempt & that someone has already infiltrated which we'll find out at the end.

60% the way into the book & the alleged Big Bad Enemy is killed in a way too easy fashion (a compound explosion) b'c it was so immediate & took barely any plotting. In what's left of the compound, the Big Bad Enemy's sister is found who conveniently, the Big Bad hated so treated her worse than dirt. David automatically assumes it makes her fairly safe. OK right. How long has he been alive?

And guess what? David takes this stray in as well...so, where do you think this is going?

Not only that, but apparently we need to be reminded again that Jonathan's prediction about Miranda dying still stands even though at this point, she is all better, has been set free & making a life for herself.

Then 75% the way into it, Miranda & David have sex for the 1st time & for whatever reason (er..destiny?) she can't help herself so bites David in the act & vice versa. Yet again, make the connection to what we already know... David's original explanation about how a person can be turned into a vamp (mutual biting & swapping) then add Jonathan's prediction (AGAIN) into the mix & whaddya get?

Why the Queen of Shadows of course. Dun Dun DUN!

Yadda, yadda, yawn, etc.. etc...neat & tidy ending.

And yet, my biggest irks were two main issues I haven't mentioned yet.

One being that the entire build up was wasted.

The MC has an incredible talent & she's undergone intense training to control it, only to use it once (& mildly at that) on a throwaway character at the big battle scene. Sorry but that was a complete squander. So the whole kick ass heroine thing Sylvan was trying to achieve? I didn't see it.

The 2nd issue being the pacing. I might have swallowed it a bit more if Sylvan just adjusted the time frame. If maybe Miranda recouped for 3 or so months at Haven & it was more like an entire year passed from start to finish.

However, Miranda was only at Haven for one month & already in love with David. She was brutally GANG RAPED for Pete's Sake! Not to mention her overall emotional state even before the rape. Huh? I just didn't swallow this at all & it's also why I think the gang rape set up comes across gratuitous b'c it ends up lacking good reason for it to have happened at all by the end, IMO.

What could have potentially been a deftly explored, emotional character driven novel ended up as standardly trite, maudlin' romance novel fare.

I think the whole book spanned a total of 6 months maybe less. After the extraordinary gang rape, the type of mental shape we find Miranda in b'c how she's been living for a long while? Well, it left me at arms length in getting into the whole story.

And with all this said, I know there is something likable about it, I can't put my finger on what exactly that is b'c logically, it didn't stack for me making it harder for me to overlook things on the whole, but I guess it's there somewhere b'c it's a popular one.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Tahlia (new)

Tahlia Newland Thanks for this. I just don't want to read about a brutal gang rape and other reviews haven't mentioned it.

message 2: by Imalady (new) - added it

Imalady Wished I had read your review before I started this book. Had to quit after the gang rape - my thoughts basically mirror yours on this ridiculous need for authors to use rape/sexual abuse to create depth of character and strength. 'Women must suffer before they can become strong' sentiment is all over UF/PNR. UGH.

message 3: by LMM (new) - rated it 2 stars

LMM You might find this interesting then...recently a friend of mine showed me the formula most authors follow in the genre. It's a 12 point outline & number 8 is called - "Ordeal".

8. Ordeal- The biggest life or death crisis

That is typically where the rape or torture occurs.

After the Ordeal, point 9 is "Reward" - The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear and now earns the reward.

There are books in which I accept rape or sexual abuse to an MC as legitimate. Usually, it's when it happens before, to form the character we meet in the 1st book.

Or it's an incident w/in the book where the lines are very blurred making the experience the true test of resolve or strength to get through it & the author allows time for the character to come to grips with what happened. When that happens, at least I have time to gain empathy for the character.

However, mostly it's just used incredibly irresponsibly because it only purpose is unoriginal as the only trauma the author could come up with as a plot device for character growth. It's lazy & disrespectful & really, really gets my goat.

The way it's used in this book, is actually one of the most exploitative I read in the genre. Sylvan tries to make it different from the rest by having it be a gang rape & also in the beginning. However, because the rest of the execution was so insensitively handled, it became clear to me that it was purely a means to a happy ending.

I don't accept that there was barely an actual legit aftermath in order for the character to end up where she did at the end.

The author apparently wanted us to feel the gut wrenching horror of rape but she want us to really, REALLY feel it so she compounds the violence by adding more than 2 men. Yet in only 6 months time the previously mentally & physically unhealthy & isolated MC is not only in love but Queen of the Vampires? Where did the journey go? I had to ask myself, what was the real purpose of having to read that traumatic experience....?? It became obvious that it's only mechanic was to get the 2 characters paired up & paired up quickly. The result, ironically was that I had a complete lack of empathy for the characters plight. Nothing rang true for me.

That's just a poor excuse & awful execution.

This outline of "Ordeal" might have been the way things were but I think now a days, authors should be willing to come up with something a bit more original. Esp. if they can't treat the topic with the sensitivity respect it deserves.

message 4: by Imalady (new) - added it

Imalady Thank you for the great reply! IA completely. I think rape is difficult to deal with properly in UF/PNR because it inevitably has to be pushed aside to make way for the greater story arc or the 'main event' (wherein heroine plays a central position which requires her to be 'strong'). So by the time we reach this part of the book, heroine has changed sufficiently from her rape to be able to handle what she is about to face (which can be as short as days). It cheapens the trauma of real rape and I've never really been quite satisfied with how its been used in UF. I skip many books when I see rape/suggested rape because I always get upset with how it's handled (this book especially was a bit too much) and given what you've said, I'd probably been even more pissed off if I had read the aftermath.

Attempted rape scenes can also bother me as well, but for different reasons. We always get this sentiment that the heroine would rather die than let it happen, so she fights back. Which, I guess, is good? But also a bit disconcerting sometimes because of what it says to rape survivors and the power we give to rapists/rape itself...

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