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REVIEW: Shadowflame by Dianne Sylvan

Dear Ms. Sylvan:

I recommended your first book, “Queen of Shadows”, to the DA readership but now I regret it. The core readership here is romance and I thought QofS had a great romantic subplot in the overall urban fantasy setting. In fact, it easily could have been marketed and sold as a paranormal romance. Shadowflame, however, takes romance readers to a place I think they will regret. This spoilerfilled summary gives the reason why.

Shadowflame by Dianne SylvanMiranda Grey is human who becomes the vampire Queen to David Solomon, the leader of the vampires of the Southern United States. David is called a Prime and Miranda is chosen to be his mystical mate, a special “Pair”. They are bonded and will be unto their death. Worse, (worse in this story at least) what David feels, Miranda feels and vice versa. Because Miranda and David are newly married, the Prime or Pairs who rule the other territories are coming to pay homage to them.

This story involves two things. First, there are visits from Prime James Hart of the Northeast and Prime Deven O’Donnell, Prime of the Western United States. Second, there is something killing powerful vampires under David’s rule and threatening the safety of both David and Miranda.

Prime James is an utter bastard who terrorizes women and Prime Deven has some serious backstory with David that David has not yet revealed to Miranda. The person(s) who are killing the powerful vampires in the Southern territory are clever and powerful, escaping the detection of David who is one of the more technologically advanced Primes but also one of the more powerful Primes in the world.

There is some suggestion in Queen of Shadows that this series is to be a feminist anthem. Miranda, for example, is a capable Queen, powerful in her own right and ready to rule by David’s side instead of behind him. Most Queens play a silent, supportive role and the Prime ranks are people with old, misogynistic men. Yet, I never understood how Miranda was powerful in her own right. In other words, she was granted power by some mystical being, anything she knows about ruling she has learned from David, and when she finds herself at odds with David, she washes over his actions as if there was nothing amiss.

I never really saw Miranda have any agency, any direction of her own. Yes, she had her music career but even her success in music came from her magical ability to spread a blanket of emotion, whether it be joy or sorrow, amongst the crowd. Not to mention that she was now Queen of the Southern United States. She even acknowledges this:

The music business was all about influence . . . and Miranda had that in spades. There was no door that closed to her, no velvet rope to keep her out no matter how exclusive the club. The Signet held sway in every level of government and the Prime a hand in every game in town, legal or otherwise. It wouldn’t take much effort to have her first single on the Billboard charts the day it was released

To be fair she does learn how to fight and wield her power independent of David.

As for David, his star does not shine very brightly for me in this book, likely diminished to a great degree by what happens in the spoiler. He’s powerful, he’s nerdy, he’s sexy, he’s wanted by everyone, and he’s understanding. Because he is described as practically perfect in every way, he lacks interesting dimension. Possibly that is why you were led to introduce an element regarding a former lover, a former male lover. Making David bisexual, however, doesn’t make him multidimensional, just someone with a broad sexual appetite. That, in and of itself, isn’t enough to make him jump off the page, at least for me.

And then there is this, the spoiler.
[spoiler]

“I don’t want to feel this way,” Deven murmured into David’s chest. “I want to forget we were ever in love and be content with friendship. But I don’t think I can, David. I can keep my distance and I can honor your commitment, but I can’t ever stop loving you.”

David drew back to look at him. There was such anguish in his face, and David felt it just as keenly himself even if it didn’t show. “I know,” he said. “Neither can I.”

Deven shook his head. “You should go. Go, now, before we do something that . . .”

He didn’t have a chance to finish the sentence. David’s mouth had already covered his.

So as you can see by the quoted portion, David and Deven have sex. Because apparently they cannot be within the same region without their love overcoming their scruples. When they have their powerful orgasm, both their mated pairs feel it.

He looked over at David. His voice was perfectly even again, perfectly factual. “Incidentally, you’re not going to have to tell Miranda either. You haven’t had time to learn this, but when you have a bond like ours, you can feel when your husband has an orgasm . . . no matter who it’s with.”

Later Miranda is angry yet turned on by David and Deven together. She even goes so far as to suggest maybe David and Deven be allowed to run off together a few times a year to fuck themselves silly. Wat?

What is totally confusing and, I felt, inconsistent is that when Deven met his mate (or Consort as he is called) in Jonathan, he totally forgot about David, pushed him aside and David spent centuries mourning Deven’s loss.

Deven didn’t say anything. For the first time since the night they had met, Deven looked utterly lost . . . and David understood that when it came down to it, Deven would do whatever Jonathan asked, would abandon David again, would sever all ties with the South if Jonathan wanted him to . . . because in the end, David wasn’t the one he was bound to. They could love each other until the stars burned out, but they weren’t, and had never been, mated in soul. They would never live together, nor die together.

I confess I don’t even know what this means. They love each other so much that they can’t keep their hands off each other. They both know what they did was a betrayal of their mates, yet….they aren’t mated in soul? What does that even mean, for the love of all that is holy.

I should add that Miranda is in bed because she is recovering from an attack that has left her weak and injured. It’s like the trifecta of horribleness. David cheats on her with an old flame, in the same house, while she is lying on a sickbed attacked because she is his Queen. Why not just defecate on her? Wouldn’t that show her the same amount of respect?

[/spoiler]

I recognize this is not billed as a romance, but the entire story is about a fated mate pair! I don’t think its fair to say that an author doesn’t have to deal with the expectations set by the story. If an author introduces something in her books, then she needs to carry it through, needs to deal with it. David and Miranda are bonded for life, their very long, immortal life. This bond is through mystical means. There is some suggestion that one part of the Pair can have feelings for someone outside the mystical mate bond but the repercussions of this are never addressed. The concept of love v. forced mating is never addressed. I was left at the end of the book with a deeply unsatisfying emotional experience and not much respect for either David or Miranda. The idea of the two of them having a love match doesn’t hold much water after this book because there isn’t any good exploration of what love is, how one loves within a mate bond or without. Truth be told, I have no interest in reading the next book, not unless a very trusted friend or five tell me it’s a can’t miss title. D

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

37 Comments

  1. Naomi
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 04:13:03

    Oh dear. I was quite interested in Queen of the Shadows after your review here, but fated-to-mate stories never sit quite right with me, so I held off. Having read this review, I’m pretty sure I made the right decision – this sounds like a massive wallbanger.

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  2. Jan
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 04:40:11

    THIS IS A REACTION TO THE SPOILER, SO SHIELD YOUR EYES.

    I have to admit I think that the whole fated mate thing could use some exploring once in a while, and that old lovers vs mated pairs could make a very interesting story. I always prefer stories where the fated thing is something the characters have to actually deal with, instead of the forming of instalust.

    However, for something like this to work, I think the cheating should have consequenses, which need to be explored thoroughly. And, if they are to be in an open relationship, it’s something that should have been forshadowed earlier, so romance readers aren’t so thrown off by it. (It’s like that Blood Law book where the heroine is shipped off to the brother at the ending…).

    So I think I’d be willing to read a story like this, as long as it’s the main storyline and explored well, not thrown in on the side.

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  3. Barbara
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 05:42:18

    No. Just no. Sounds like he loves his other partner, so the options are he also loves his fated mate or he’s in a forced mating where he doesn’t care about her and in either case, he’s cheating. So this storyline is a big, superfat no.

    If I were reading this on my Kindle, I’d go borrow a copy of the book so I could throw it.

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  4. Chelsea
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 08:30:05

    So its a complicated love triangle? Sort of? I can’t deal with love triangles, I just can’t. Unless the author handles them really well and even then…no. I think I might be taking Queen of Shadows off my wishlist :(

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  5. ms bookjunkie
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 09:03:33

    Jane, thank you for taking one for the team, and for writing this review. I *was* interested in QoS, but it’s coming off the wishlist now. I am—first and foremost—a romance reader, and while you can talk me into reading other genres, the books must be emotionally satisfying to me.

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  6. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 09:54:26

    @Chelsea No, it’s no love triangle. As far as I can tell, Deven and David definitely go their separate ways.

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  7. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 09:56:39

    @Jan I agree that the fated mate thing could use exploring but I didn’t feel like that was addressed in any way. My problem with the scene in the spoiler was how strong the emotional connection was between the two characters. They use “love” as if it is something separate but not as deep as the mate bond yet this love can overcome the mate bond as well. I just don’t feel like the author was thinking about what these scenes were saying to the reader. She wanted to include something in her story and thought, perhaps, we would be like Miranda, thinking that stuff was hot.

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  8. Allie
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 10:09:50

    I’m sure glad I waited on reading that first one. Thank you for the warning.

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  9. Carolyn
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 11:00:14

    I enjoyed the first book, but I believe I’ll stop there and try to forget what I just read. :-( But before I do, may I say this is a good and very helpful review.

    As far as I’m concerned there is only one book and Miranda and David live HEA. :-)

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  10. Julia Broadbooks
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 11:21:39

    Thanks for the heads up. Like many of your readers, I am at heart a romance reader. I am not certain if reading this series would annoy me or break my heart.

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  11. Jan
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 11:26:49

    @Jane: The thing is, you can think something is hot, but still object / feel hurt, to the emotions that are involved. As far as I can tell Miranda never reacted to the emotional part of the entanglement, which seems very strange to me.

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  12. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 11:28:12

    @Jan: She was initially hurt and angry, but then…I don’t know. She was so accepting of it, so willing to take a backseat. I would have rather have her go off on her own, deal with what it meant to be in love, mate bonded for your immortal life to someone who loved another person.

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  13. Bronte
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 12:28:06

    This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme now. JR Wards last book gave me the absolute poos because it ruined Butch’s HEA for me. I loved the first four books of the series and totally believed in each of their romances. I’m only hoping she doesn’t screw with Rhage and Mary cause if so I will never be buying her books again. I definitely will not be starting this series.

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  14. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 12:35:44

    What happened in the Butch and Jane HEA? Someone told me it involved his feelings for Vishous? I didn’t get the whole story.

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  15. Bronte
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 14:20:04

    Without going into a whole lot of detail basically Butch and Vishous acknowledged their feelings for each other. They didn’t have sex but did umm “other things” which in the context of what we know about Vishous basically to me they may as well just have had sex. Marissa’s feelings about the whole situation were never covered. Everything is basically from Jane and V’s perspective with a little bit from Butch. To me it kind of back tracked on everything from Lover Revealed and my spin on it was that it was to satisfy those people who wanted V and Butch together. Now maybe thats a little cynical of me but that was how I felt. I also feel that the BDB series is very much no longer a romance series.

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  16. Melissa
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 18:39:29

    Jane,

    Totally agree with your review regarding the fact that the author chose to make Queen of Shadows have a fated mates pair. There was a romance with an HEA and the author just crapped on it – and ruined my trust in her as an author. I also feel bad about recommending Queen of Shadows to so many people. We had a long discussion about this on Goodreads and about 90% of us agreed that this ruined the series for us.

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  17. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 19:26:59

    @Melissa: Where is this discussion? I need to join in!

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  18. Ruth (CO)
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 19:43:26

    I read the first book and had the second book on my wish list. Definitely removed that from my list now as this “infidelity” just does not work for me.

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  19. Melissa
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 20:14:40

    @Jane,

    It was under one of my general updates a few weeks ago on Goodreads. Is there a way to search those?

    ReplyReply

  20. Jan
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 20:35:56

    @Melissa: Melissa, if you click on one of your updates, there is a link in the top right corner to all your updates. You should be able to find the discussion you had there. I think I’d like to read it as well!

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  21. Melissa
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 20:44:21

    Here is one discussion:

    http://www.goodreads.com/user_status/show/6594427

    This was a different conversation, started under a friend’s update:

    http://www.goodreads.com/user_status/show/6596560

    ReplyReply

  22. The Octopus Gallery
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 21:50:10

    Just saw your comment about the fic origins of this over on Good Reads, Jane, but I don’t have an account there so I just wanted to say that in the original series, Deven was an original character in it and Damon and he do hook up eventually, but at the urging of their respective partners after a lot of pining, IIRC. Been a while since I did a reread. The whole Elena thing was separate from that and had more to do with her not wanting to be human any more (as she ends up in the end of the 4th TVD book) and going to Damon to vamp her instead of Stefan. (and then it turns into this whole partner sharing polyamorous mystic circle of magic and IDEK how to explain that.)

    Anyway, I’m just glad I have the original version saved because I really liked it a *lot* better.

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  23. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 21:53:19

    @The Octopus Gallery Thanks for the clarification. It would be interesting to do a comparison between the fan fic and the pro version. Do you mind if I paste your comment over at GR?

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  24. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 21:54:05

    @Melissa Thanks Melissa. I commented on your update because there was a commenter in the other one that didn’t seem to be a fan of the blog and I didn’t want her to think that I was stalking her and that there was no safe place for her to chat with readers.

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  25. The Octopus Gallery
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 21:59:39

    @Jane: Don’t mind at all. Oh, and you’re right: David = Damon, Miranda = Bonnie. I don’t recall any other TVD characters showing up with new names, but I only read QoS once.

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  26. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 22:03:54

    @The Octopus Gallery I was also told that not good things happen to one of my favorite characters in the pro series:

    Faith

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  27. The Octopus Gallery
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 22:07:26

    You mean in the fic? Yeah, she gets a crap, refrigerator-y end.

    ReplyReply

  28. Jane
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 22:09:54

    @The Octopus Gallery So I guess I am glad I am done with the series, considering…

    ReplyReply

  29. Jennifer
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 16:44:31

    Somehow I’m reminded of reading the Sholan Alliance series and how I quit them. There was similar weirdness regarding this trope in some ways. Ugh.

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  30. Joana
    Jul 21, 2011 @ 11:15:15

    Jane
    It’s my first time on your webside and I have to tell you, I am grateful for read your SF’ review. I loved QoS, loved the David’s and Miranda’s bound, one Pair that went through all those things and in the end finally became Prime and Queen.

    What happened with the true love? What happened with the love of a soul mate? Because Miranda and David are supposed to besoul mate, right? It’s the Signet’s power, right?

    I am really disappointed with the David’s cheats not because he is bissexual, not really, but because he is supposed to be her soul mate and he isn’t suppossed to be in love with someone else except her.

    I’ll read Shadowflame, but my heart is already hurts.

    ps: sorry for my english, I am from other country.

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  31. In which I rant about Shadowflame « abookandashortlatte
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 16:27:43

    [...] fan of Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan, I want to thank Jane at Dear Author for posting this review of its follow-up, Shadowflame. The ensuing rant (not review, since I have not actually read the [...]

  32. abookandashortlatte
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 16:29:10

    I agree with so much of what you said (though I have not read the book yet).

    I linked to your review at my blog

    http://abookandashortlatte.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/in-which-i-rant-about-shadowflame/

    in my own rant on this particular storyline. I would love to know what you think.

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  33. Jane
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 20:56:07

    @abookandashortlatte Thanks. I think you bring up some great points about where the author was leading us and yes, yes yes, on Miranda not owning feelings of pain or hurt.

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  34. DCM
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 06:54:16

    Just thought I should add my 2 cents here so I am just pasting a portion of the rant I did on another site after reading this horrible book. Let me be redundant here, Queen of Shadows is a 5 Star effort so i suggest you read it as a stand alone and assume they all lived happily ever after.

    The author pretty much flipped her readers the finger and Twitter comments coming from her are along the lines of “anyone who hates the book must be homophobic”. How about I realize you are a whacko and just not buy your books. Do some research and you might find get an idea why she hates good relationships. The author created a novel in Queen of Shadows that people loved on an emotional level and then she betrayed/cheated her readers in Book 2 by pretty much destroying that emotional attachment. The idea of this book with different characters and localities would not have bothered anyone, but when she took established characters and turned them into something akin to doppelgangers of the ones created in Book 1 they realized they had been cheated by the author. The horrible thing here is not the book itself or even the subject matter, it is that she used a base of readers to sell a book 2 that destroyed what most of them loved in Queen of Shadows. I still think it shows a total disregard for the people who bought her first book. If she wanted to write “alternate” sexual drama, she should have used a new set of characters, not destroyed the ones she created for readers in Queen of Shadows.

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  35. Jane
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 07:22:28

    @DCM I agree. Read Queen of Shadows and write your own sequel in your head.

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  36. CJ
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 16:02:35

    Oh my, you said this so much more eloquently than I.

    I just about lost my head.

    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/236647702

    I don’t care who he cheated with but I care about the fact the he cheated.

    ReplyReply

  37. Jane
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 18:44:02

    @CJ: All reviews are made better with animated gifs.

    ReplyReply

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