Review: The Scent of Shadows by Vicki PetterssonThe Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson
Series: Sign of the Zodiac #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-10-13
Pages: 464
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.By rights, she should be dead.Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.But the nightmare is just beginning—for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .

Rec for people who love: tortured heroines, completely unique universes, and a fair bit of blood and guts in their books!

Thoughts: I first saw this book at a second hand store over a year ago, and left it there because I couldn’t quite make out where it fell in the genre. No vampires, no witches, no werewolves. What exactly were these Shadow things supposed to be, anyhow? So I put it back, despite Kelley Armstrong’s quote claiming it would keep me up past my bed time.

A year later, same second-hand store, and they still hadn’t sold it. Marked down to 50p, I figured I could afford to give it a shot. And let’s just say, I wish I had picked it up when I first found it.

Pettersson throws us straight into the action – leaving us to work out the universe as Joanna does. It is a complicated one too, as we have zero frame of reference to go on. Put simply, this series is about a war between two superhero factions: the forces of Light and Shadow. Their battles are depicted in comic form after the fact, then sold to humans as fiction.

Had I understood this before starting, I likely wouldn’t have continued. While I appreciate the whole superhero thing, it just wouldn’t have enticed me enough to read it. But boy, would I have been wrong. Vicki Pettersson is a brutal writer. The blood, the sex, the cruelty just seeps out of the novel, unabashed and unashamed – much like Vegas itself. The setting is more than ideal for the horror of the novel, in fact, it might not have worked set anywhere else.

Joanna is a tortured heroine – for a change – and is damaged beyond belief. It makes her both tough and endearing, an odd combination to say the least. Considering the horror Pettersson subjects her to, you will be as surprised as I am that she does not spend the entire book in tears.

The action is brilliantly described, the writing nearly flawless, and the universe-building is gratifyingly natural. Joanna’s troupe is made up of very complex, unique characters – each with a story of their own. It’s a refined book, if one can say such a thing about horror, and a definite must – especially for those of you hoping to try something a bit new.

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Kay

Your ghost host at Dead Book Darling
Kay's been blogging about urban fantasy, young adult and werewolves since 2009. She's a firm believer in the many uses of the towel, the science of deduction and other fandom in-jokes. To support her book-buying habit, Kay keeps up a day-job as a science journalist (so feel free to ask her about Physics).

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