Elaine Cunningham

Books: Fantasy | Mystery

Shadows in the Darkness (2004), Shadows in the Starlight (2007)

Shadows in the Darkness (2004)

Shadows in the DarknessGwen Gellman is an ex-cop who was pushed off the force after a bust goes terribly wrong. So she sets up her own private investigation company. However, the latest case to walk in her door--a missing teenager--starts to go wrong almost from the start.

There are actually several mysteries in this story: what went wrong in the bust that ended Gwen's career, what has happened to the missing girl, and what about Gwen's past makes her so different from everyone else. Each of these mysteries was very well done. Although you can guess the generalities of what is happening, you're never quite certain. And although you've picked up a supernatural fantasy and it's obvious that Gwen is most likely no human, Gwen's discover of her past is extremely well done, and I never felt that she was being either too dense or too accepting of her past.

I also liked that I was never certain who the good guys and the bad guys. Well, some of the bad guys were obvious, but others were less obvious, and the part they were playing was much less clear.

One negative, however, is the cover. I bypassed this book several times because of the cover, and even after I got the book, I kept picking the book up and putting it back down, mostly because of the cover. It's simply unappealing. Then once I started reading the book, I kept flipping back to the cover, trying to figure out who the woman on the cover was supposed to be, because she can't be the heroine of the book.

The other negative was the ending of the book. Although the story arc was completed, the ending of the book made it obvious that a second book in the series was coming, and created several new threads that will most likely be the story arc for the next book.

I hate that.

Convince me to read the next book in the series because I like the characters and want to read more about them. Not because you've left me dangling.

Also, there was boinking. Well, they didn't quite make it to the boinking, but still. It didn't feel like it added anything to the story or the character that hadn't been added through Gwen's descriptions of herself. It just makes me wonder why it's so hard to find good fantasy with strong female leads that doesn't have sex.

However, despite those negatives this really is a good book. The secondary characters are complex, and Gwen's relationships with those characters makes sense. There is a give and take with the people with whom she interacts, and so when she makes requests or needs things, the willingness of those around her to help her makes sense.

As I said, it was a very well-written mystery.

So if you like supernatural fantasy with strong characters, and especially if you like supernatural mysteries, then you should pick up Shadows in the Darkness. It's quite good, and I am definitely going to have to pick up the next book in the series--not because of the stupid addition to the ending, but because I want to read more about Gwen.

Rating: 7/10

Shadows in the Starlight (2007)

I enjoyed the first book Changeling book, Shadows in the Darkness, so I decided to pick up Shadows in the Starlight.

Unfortunately, for me, this book failed one of my most important tests–there was very little resolution to the story, and the book asked far more questions than they answered. Right now, that's instant death for a series as far as I am concerned, especially if the book is not labeled as part two of four or whatever. I hate waiting for sequels enough that unless the story is exceptionally good, leaving me hanging at the end of a book causes me to lose interest in the series.

And unfortunately, this book didn't qualify as exceptionally good. I still like the characters, although I could do with a lot less boinking, and I hated the fact that although the mystery was solved, there was almost no resolution on other story threads, and in many many threads were left unresolved.

Mind you, I like character growth and learning more about a character throughout a series, but learning in the last couple chapters that half the people in the character's life mean her harm I found extremely annoying, since we're left wondering whether she's going to even survive.

That kind of ending just isn't for me.

Additionally, I had a hard time getting into the story. It was nothing I could put my finger on, I just didn't get sucked into the story like I did for the previous book.

But that isn't to say the book didn't have it's strong points. I liked many of the characters, especially the secondary characters like Daiman. And I liked how Gwen was forced to come to terms with some of her previous co-workers.

Additionally, the mystery portion of the story was only so-so. I enjoyed the way the kidnapping portion of the mystery turned out, but the murder (one of the murders anyway) was not really resolved. We may have learned the who, but we did not learn the why, and instead were left hanging as to the true resolution.

So although there were many things to recommend this, overall I found it disappointing. If I pick up the next book in the series, it'll either be used, or I'll wait until several more books in the series have come out.

Rating: 5/10