Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
This series consistently receives such high ratings that it made me question my own sanity when I started reading it, and just felt NOTHING for it. I’m giving it a rating of 3 stars because it is written and edited well, in a competent style. I have no problems with Karen Marie Moning’s actual writing style. But I have lots of problems with the series as a whole, and could write pages on each book. Instead, I will just review the last book I read, which I think was meant to be a possible end to the series, but didn’t turn out that way. I believe at least two more books will be forthcoming, however, they will come forth without me tagging along for the ride. And here’s why.
When I finished Shadowfever, the fifth book in this series, all I felt at the end of the last page, was “Thank god I’m finally done with this!” That is SO not how I normally feel at the end of a good series, filled with characters who have become friends to me. I really wanted to like this series, but for me, it falls so short of what a good Urban Fantasy OR a Paranormal Romance series should be, I just can’t understand how it ever got so many good reviews. Yes, Shadowfever is probably the strongest book in the series, but the ending is without a doubt, the most confusing, convoluted, and completely unsatisfactory ending I’ve ever read in either of these genres. Here are my problems:
1. After five very long, ridiculously slow-paced, and repetitive books, we still don’t know what or who Barrons really is. All we get is that he is a mercenary of some unexplained sort who ended up with the Mother of All Crappy Jobs on some other unexplained world, wherein he, all his men, and his little boy (why is HE even there?) die, only to return to life over and over, for unexplained reasons, seemingly immortal from that point on. Are you sensing a pattern here? We do not know what/who killed them and then cursed (?) them with not being able to die, and doubly cursed the little boy, who cannot control the beast that they all now shift into when angered or aroused. Clarification, please? Is that so much to ask for, after FIVE books?
2. We have no clue who, or what, Mac really is, either. She has determined for herself what she just “KNOWS” she is, over and over, and it always turns out to be total baloney. First she’s certain she’s THIS, then she’s certain she’s THAT. Now we are to believe she is the daughter of Isla, but have no input into who her father is, or why she has been “connected” via dream visions to the Seelie Queen all her life. And who or what was Isla to have given birth to someone like Mac?
3. We also have no clue why the Unseelie King (alias The Dreamy Eyed Boy) has been watching her since birth, via one or more of his many various “parts.” (He’s too vast to fit into one body). School teachers, principals, landlords, on and on, monitoring her throughout her life, unbeknownst to her. Why? Who/what IS she, really? The King’s daughter, possibly? But that doesn’t seem likely. Oh, wait. Likely doesn’t seem to matter here.
4. Why does this entire series have an absolute glut of sex, but almost no love? It suffers greatly as a result of going to the very end of book #5 before ANY tenderness between Barrons & Mac is evidenced. So unnecessary. The rocky road of their relationship could have been an ongoing thing all along, but still accompanied by “moments” here and there showing their genuine affection for each other. And by moments, I do not mean Barrons projecting into her head how much he wants to schtupp her, and her thinking back that she wants that, too, but isn’t going to say it out loud. Instead of a growing affection, we get the two of them acting like spoiled, immature brats who never trust each other enough to work together for their common goals, and in fact, often end up sabotaging the other due to sheer stubbornness. The only tender line anywhere before the very end of this 5th book is when Barrons was using unlimited, constant, mindless sex to bring Mac back from being an unlimited, constant, mindless sexual slave. (HUH? Is that what’s known as fighting fire with fire?) At one point, Barrons is looking at her face as he makes love (and I use the phrase loosely) to her and thinks to himself that when she returns to her right mind (as if she ever showed any evidence of having one of those throughout the entire series), will she want him “as her man.” He was vulnerable at that moment, and the line was touching. But one line in 4 1/2 books is starvation rations.
5. The story to date would have been much stronger and far less repetitive had it been edited down to THREE books instead of five. As it is, it’s far, far too long, causing the forward motion of the story line to drag interminably at times. Way too many pages filled with Mac haring off on yet another stupid, life-endangering, and usually pointless, escapade. Which brings me to my next point.
6. I still, after FIVE, count ’em, FIVE, books, do not like Mac. She still seems as shallow and foolish as she did at the beginning. Yeah, she has gained power and figured out how to do a few interesting things, but emotionally, she’s still stunted and often incredibly selfish. And just basically not a likeable person. Even Barrons in his cruelest & coldest moments is a far more sympathetic character than Mac. And if I never read about another heroine who favors the color pink, long nails, and fast cars, it would be okay with me. Did I mention shallow? To get away with having a character this immature, that character needs to so lovable you forgive her foolishness. Mac is NOT lovable. At least, not to me.
I know & understand that authors need to keep some mystery and secrets going when they are writing a series. All questions can’t be answered in Book 1. But there is a way to do it, and a way NOT to do it, and in my opinion, this was the latter. Some questions need to be answered in EACH book. Some romance (if it’s part of the plot line) needs to appear in EACH book. And most of all, characters (flawed or not) need to be so likable that you can’t imagine NOT continuing the journey with them.
For me, this series falls short on every one of these levels.
What I DID like:
Barrons finally has some small measure of happiness in his life. I’m not sure WHY Mac makes him happy…we’re never privy to his feelings about his attraction to her…but she does. That he now knows that she loves him, beast and all, is nice.
As for the other things I liked…well. I can’t think of any, except for the short, crisp dialog here and there between Mac & Dreamy Eyed Boy. That was clever. But Barrons feeling loved and some brief moments of witty banter between Mac & DEG are simply not enough to sustain an entire series.
I still don’t know why I read these books, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be bothering with Books 6 & 7. There are too many riveting and FUN Urban Fantasies to choose from, instead.
NOTE: The above represents only my own feelings on this series. It is extremely popular, and my hat is off to Karen Marie Moning for creating something that seems to work well for so many readers. So don’t rely solely on my opinion of it. Check it out for yourself, and make up your own mind. Start with Book 1, as always, and read them in order.
The first four books of the series:
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