30 January 2011

Shadowspell by Jenna Black

Oh Shadowspell, I looked forward to you so much! Why hast thou forsaken me?!? This book brought out such mixed feelings for me, mostly in whether or not I should post a review. After all, it was one of my top 10 most anticipated books of 2011, so letting it fade into obscurity would do that post a real disservice. On the other hand it seems to be such a bad thing to post negative reviews in the book blogging world, I feel as if I'm committing a social injustice. Really, though, the injustice would be to the readers, the ones who can't find any reviews of a book so they buy it thinking it might be OK and then find out they made a not-so-good choice. So, with that line of thinking, I've decided: I'm going to be a blogger who posts negative reviews. This is the first.

On top of spending most of her time in a bunkerlike safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the Erlking and his pack of murderous minions known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite and immortal powers, the Erlking has long been the nightmare of the Fae realm. A fragile treaty with the Faerie Queen, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the one thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. Which means Dana’s in trouble, since it’s common knowledge that the Faerie Queen wants her – and her rare Faeriewalker powers – dead. The smoldering, sexy Erlking’s got his sights set on Dana, but does he only seek to kill her, or does he have something much darker in mind?

I had such high hopes for this book. I really, really liked the first one. Dana was such a poised, realistic, strong character. She had her own agency, goals, and talents that were obviously separate and above any possible love interests and the imposing authority of her father. This book, however, is very different. While it retains the surprising-yet-believable plot arc and the great worldbuilding of the first, I think the Dana character went way off-base. It's really contained in one word: slut. And it's used in this book ALOT. Somehow Dana has become paranoid that she's a slut, even though she's a virgin. Dana is (according to the book) a slut because two boys like her at once, a slut because she likes two boys at once (even though she's barely kissed one and never kissed the other), a slut because she's jealous when her best friend comments that one of her crushes is cute, a slut because people find out she's a virgin (yeah, that one blew my mind too), and a slut because she likes kissing a boy who has more experience than her. Other elements of the plot (the popular handsome boy falls for her, situations require a chaste relationship, Dana's self-sacrificial recklessness) really made this book read more like twilight without the sparkly sunlight scenes. I was really unhappy that the skewed sexualities were imposed on the character, because I really fear what a teenager reading this book would think it is telling her about her own romantic life. There's also some other problematic spots in relation to Dana's mother's relationship with Dana's father (he had her declared insane so he could keep her locked up "for her own good", the excuse is that she's a drunk but I'm starting to wonder if we're going to discover that he magically made her an alcoholic, too, since it's hinted) and Dana's transfer of protection from her overbearing father and father-figure bodyguard to an oversexualized bad boy to her entirely chaste boyfriend (complete with ownership markings). I found it really sad, because all of the spark that Glimmerglass had was still present in this book, but I just couldn't dig out the joy from under the problems.

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