Monday, August 13, 2012
Bastard Reaction: Shadows Before the Sun by Kelly Gay
When you go to Hell and back, the very least you want as a reward is a piece of Heaven. Charlie just got her wish, and she's quickly finding out it's not all it's cracked up to be. Shadows Before the Sun is the fourth novel in the Charlie Madigan series by Kelly Gay, which has been one of my favorite urban fantasy series in the past few years. Previously we joined Charlie in the world of Charybdon, this time we're taking a trip to Elysia whether she's welcomed or not.
Leaving behind a fresh murder scene in the Druid King's territory, Charlie is all set to go in a diplomatic visit to bring Hank back from his home world of Elysia. That's when she gets a shocking report concerning Hank, making her visit inconsequential. Charlie not being one to play by the rules, and being someone of the skeptic persuasion, puts a plan in motion to find the truth of the situation. She's now undertaking an undercover mission, accompanied by an unlikely ally, into the heavenly Elysia, just to be met with horrors beyond her imagination. While she dodges an ancient superpower set on killing her, she's purposed to find the truth of what has happened to Hank, and intends to put the appropriate parties in a world of hurting.
Shadows Before for the Sun is quite a dark book. I also found it to be the most pleasingly violent so far, particularly in the graphic department. Nothing gratuitous about it, but just genuine detailed brutality. This was most prevalent in a new narrative feature from Hank's point-of-view; the subject of excruciating torture.
This series is narrated from Charlie's first person view, but for the first time Kelly Gay decided to throw Hank into the mix, but his in third person. I thought it worked wonderful. I'd be wary of overusing this tactic in future installments, but for the time being it worked quite well particularly with the story that was being told.
It was quite a straightforward book. Not many twists we've come to expect. It also took quite a bit to develop. But it wasn't much of an issue, with time well spent with the awesome Rex bantering, and the surprise character of the Oracle who was featured through most of the book tagging along with Charlie. I don't know why I kept imagining both of them growing old together and starring in a Grumpy Old Men adaptation, grandma style.
Something I found interesting with this novel was its structure. It was perfectly framed with its first and last chapter, and the middle content was dominated with two main threads, and a third one which was left over for the next installment. A third one which I thought would share more significant time in this novel, so that surprised me. As it was, even though it's not a long book, it felt like you read two novels packed in one. It contained two climaxes, the second one coming by means of an extended aftermath portion in the novel. I don't know how this development will be received, as it was a bit tricky as far as pace and rhythm was concerned, but for all my cares it just meant that I was privy to some more exciting sequences.
One thing I'm a bit leery about is how the future interaction between Charlie and Hank will develop. Though at first I was hard set against it, I have to admit that I'm enjoying some of their time together. Hank really won me over in the second half of the previous book, and this one cemented my opinion of him and his role. That said, I think it can become a bit dull and somewhat tedious if all their interactions from now on will be laced with sexual banter and erotic lustful scenes. I really hope they find other topics to talk about going forward than how majestic Hank's joystick happens to be to go along with his orgasm inducing soundtrack in bed. I may just have to deal with it as I've done so far as there's plenty more here to hold my interest.
I also wonder how Charlie's progressing power will be handled. I tell you this much, I'm not a big fan of having powerful characters being constantly restrained from exerting that power other than through the use of their own judgement. I'm of a mind to think that we may be seeing a bit more of Charlie flexing her muscles in the future, and I'm curious of what antagonists will be placed in her way to balance things out.
Probably being in the minority here, actually I'm sure of it, but I still think that the first book was the best in the series. I guess I'm just a sucker for the political intrigue it featured, with all the behind the scenes maneuvering with us having a front seat to the action. The past few novels have felt like some sort of stage is being set, without putting all the parties together and us not being privy to anyone's hand. We get hints of possible motives here and there, and how war is imminent if certain things come to pass, but still haven't seen the ambitious grab for power that we were present for in that first book. But I'm being patient with it.
Keeping that in mind, despite the emotional roller-coaster that was this book, the ending felt like it had a promise of peace, of hope that things can just get better. The previous books all seem to have ended in some tense cliffhanger moments, while this time all was tranquil. My opinion? The stage has been finally set, and this is the peace before the storm, if we aren't simply in the eye of it already. The promise of more exciting things to come holding my interest.
Character interaction was at its best though through the novel, Rex stealing scenes whenever he's present. The Oracle made a great character to have sharing a good portion of the novel, so that was very much welcomed, and a new character has been introduced who is a wild card. He will keep things quite interesting. Nothing to say of how awesome Pen the Druid King is, so also looking forward to more of him.
Kelly Gay has written another solid installment in this Charlie Madigan saga. Shadows Before the Sun will surely be well received by fans of the series, and I think it'll be the favorite of the great majority reading it. Don't know what Gay has planned next for the series, hearing rumors of a book featuring the Druid King's story, but whichever way she takes us, I'll be quite eager to follow.
Buy Shadows Before the Sun from The Book Depository.
Please visit Kelly Gay's website for more information on this series and other projects.
Other reviews in the series: