Oh Eugenie, Eugenie, Eugenie. Throughout all four of the Dark Swan books, I feel like you could have used a good girlfriend you could call whenever you had the urge to do something silly. Unfortunately, you didn't have my number, and as much as I've enjoyed your company, I still have to fight the urge to shake some sense into you, even after all this time.
In Shadow Heir
, Eugenie Markham has her twin babies but hides them away in fear of their safety. She returns to the faery world to find that a disaster has fallen on her land, and she must work together with both allies and enemies in order to save the Otherworld that she's come to love. Eugenie's story has always been a lot of fun from the very beginning, when we first learned she was a half-human, half-fae shaman for hire who learns that she's destined to be part of a prophecy that will wreak havoc upon the mortal world. I've really enjoyed her learning to harness her powers (she can control water elements!), uncovering the truth behind her past, and watching her become a more powerful, more dedicated Queen in the faery kingdom. All of the battle scenes are really fun, and if some of the plot points are a bit on the predictable side, that hasn't mattered as much to me because the characters are all nuanced and interesting, the dialogue is snappy and humorous, and the overall story lines are fast-paced and entertaining.
What's been much less enjoyable has been watching Eugenie bounce back and forth between her two love interests, the half-Japanese, half-fox shapeshifter Kiyo, and the madly flirtatious, deadly ambitious King Dorian. While both men were equally attractive in the beginning, the love triangle dragged out interminably, with pretty bad behaviors from everyone concerned. Both men have their own agendas and secrets that they keep from Eugenie, but in the last book Iron Crowned
, one of them made a horribly treacherous and unforgivable move, and I went into this book absolutely gunning for blood. (view spoiler)[ Or a fur coat. :D (hide spoiler)]
One really funny thing about this last installment is that pretty much everyone else in the book hates him, too! Different characters kept bringing up the idea of killing the traitor again and again, to my great satisfaction.
I did very much enjoy reading this story and I was happy that many of the threads that were left hanging in the last book were concluded--but I'm not sure I'm happy about the way
they were resolved. Eugenie makes some pretty awful tactical errors, seems deliberately obtuse throughout much of the story, and in the end sets upon a course that made my blood pressure go up a few notches. There is just no reason that she shouldn't have learned by now that dishonesty and deception are never going to pay off. Her decisions at the end were illogical, poorly conceived, and completely unfair to everyone concerned. Also...(view spoiler)[I could have used a little bit more makeout time with Dorian. (hide spoiler)]
Richelle Mead's heroines are always strong, dominant women, which is part of what I like about them--but after producing three series which manage to entertain and frustrate readers in nearly equal measure, it's pretty clear to me that the biggest issue is that in trying to make her main character flawed, she so often makes the main character stupid
as well. Or at least irrational and thoughtless, which is so frustrating when our heroine usually otherwise behaves with a great deal of courage and integrity and common sense. That's not to say that obstacles shouldn't be thrown in the main character's way or that she shouldn't make mistakes, since that's what keeps things interesting. But there should be solid reasons given for withholding information/not taking action/etc, etc., other than just to extend the story. We can't root for the heroine if we're suddenly rolling our eyes at her all the time.
So this is, once again, a mixed conclusion to a Richelle Mead series. I still enjoy her books quite a lot because they're so darned entertaining--but things never seem to end with my having as much respect for the heroine as I did in the beginning. It is so very disappointing when it appears that readers believe in the characters' self-worth and honor more than their author does.
**My thanks go out to the lovely Flannery
for knowing how much I was dying to read this book and being kind enough to share her ARC.**