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REVIEW: Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

Dear Ms. Cole:

When I first read the review thoughts of Mandi from SmexyBooks on this book and she sounded, well, bored by a book that she described as a classic Cole, I thought to myself that it was impossible for a book to be a signature Cole and be boring. But after reading the book, I completely understand Mandi’s point of view.

Shadow's Claim Kresley ColeEvery element that I enjoyed in a Cole book (but didn’t get in Poison Princess) was included somewhere in the text. There were funny moments. The intense Cole male. The heroine who isn’t it in the hero right away. The sexiness and delayed gratification.  But there was no urgency that propelled me to turn the page.  The story is entirely predictable.

I believe the problem was two fold. First, the vampire male who must have the Bride who blooded him is a classic Cole hero but there wasn’t anything more of interest to the Shadow warrior. So what that he was a great assassin? Who in the Lore is not a great killer? Even the slyph or phantom that guards the heroine is “ruthless warrior” as is the object of her affection as is Victor, Trehan’s cousin and constant foe. Everyone is the greatest of great. This brings me to the second complaint. The stakes weren’t high enough. In each previous book, there was a truly impossible conflict and I looked forward to seeing how it would be written to conclusion. How would Cole get out of this one, I would ask myself.

In this case, the conflict wasn’t just possible, it was already foretold.  We know from Lothaire how the story unspools already because Shadow’s Claim takes place at the same time. What the reader is supposed to find compelling is that the hero, Trehan, may never be able to return to  his home of Dacia.  But so much of the text was given over to describing Trehan’s life as dull and full of duty that it was hard to see why he would want to return. Particularly when it is discovered on his very first encounter with Bettina that she is his Bride, the special being created just for him.  In the Lore, a vampire’s heart does not beat, his shaft does not become engorged, he does not breathe until blooded by his Bride.  Now that he has found her, we are to believe he gives two hoots about his hidden kingdom?

Bettina of Abbadonae, the heroine, was probably a good match for Trehan given that she is just as dull as he was.  Bettina is  half demon and half sorceress. I don’t recall any traits that she received from her demon father.  Her power is a Sorceri power.  She has no horns nor does she turn red like other demons in the  Immortal After Dark world. She dresses and really self identifies with the Sorceri.  Bettina’s halfling status has no bearing in this book and the failure to use that typifies the world building problems here.

There appear to be an endless number of random kingdoms and creatures in the Lore, as many as there are books to be written, I guess.  This kingdom, like the Dacian kingdom, is remote and largely inaccessible.  Trehan calls it a swampy backwater.  I’m not sure why I am supposed to care about it. It’s like one of those random desert kingdoms in the Harlequin Presents Sheik stories.  The demons in the swamp of Abbadonae are called deathly ones but there are no swamp-like backwater features about them.  They drink, they kill, they have sex. Sounds like every other place in the Lore.  Bettina runs around for most of the book trying to decide whether she truly loves her best friend Caspion or whether she should submit to her growing desire for Trehan.

The main plot is this.  Bettina was captured by an enemy of the Sorceri and tortured. She is saved from her torture when her Uncle uses a summoning spell. (Why he uses it as this particular time is unexplained)  When he sees her beaten and tortured, he and her other guardian, the most powerful Sorceress in the land, Morgana, devise to hold a tournament in her honor.  The winner of the tourney will win the crown of Abbadonae and Bettina’s hand in marriage.  She agrees to this.

The rules of the tourney are so poorly crafted by the guardians that it’s like a preschooler wrote them up. Many creatures enter, one creature wins.  As the competitors arrive, Bettina and her guardians are a little horrified by the types of creatures that enter the tourney. I’m wondering why they didn’t craft the rules better.  When it becomes clear that the Uncle wanted Bettina’s best friend and the subject of her fantasies as the winner, I’m just shaking my head.  Why not just get them to marry then?  The why is, of course, that we wouldn’t have place for Trehan and the big tourney but that is so contrived it’s frustrating. Trehan can easily win the tourney but killing Bettina’s best friend and presumed love of her life would make them enemies. The resolution to this is so achingly obvious.

The elements of a good Cole book are here but nothing much happens. The step toward the Ascension isn’t occurring. I felt like I was a reader in stasis and as Trehan knows, that’s not really a good thing.  C

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

17 Comments

  1. Sophia (FV)
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 12:13:13

    I agree with your review. The story felt so familiar predictable. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Cole.

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  2. JacquiC
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 13:23:00

    As a newbie to the Cole universe, this one sounds like it is not a good place to start (or even end). Can someone recommend where to start in order to fully appreciate the Cole magic? I have tried one of her historicals which didn’t do all that much for me, but the enthusiasm I see in various blogs for the paranormals makes me want to try one of these. Where to start?

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  3. Janine
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 13:31:30

    @JacquiC: Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the start of her paranormal series is a novella called The Warlord Wants Forever.

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  4. JacquiC
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 15:55:28

    And is it best to read the series in order?

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  5. Jen
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 16:04:03

    I recommend A Hunger Like No Other, No Rest for the Wicked, and Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. (Those should be books #1, 2, & 3 in the series, though I think the whole thing did start with the novella A Warlord Wants Forever.)

    I really loved those books when I first read them, because/in spite of all their crazy over-the-top situations, characters, and sex. I still buy Kresley’s new books, but I don’t wait with bated breath for them to come out anymore.

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  6. Jen
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 16:04:54

    @JacquiC:

    I think it’s best to read them in order because so many of the characters show up in other books. But not totally necessary!

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  7. Mary
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 18:09:05

    I’m going to read this, because I read every book in this series. It does sound disappointing, but I was kind of expecting that when I found out the next book was about the Dacians rather than some characters we know well who need HEAS!!!
    Honestly, I just want to read Nix’s story. She’s going to write that, right?

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  8. Mary
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 18:12:04

    @JacquiC:

    I think I started at the seventh books (Kiss of a Demon King (which is fabulous)) and then read through however many were available at the time (I think nine or ten?) and then went back and read the beginning ones. I was a little confused, but her world is pretty easy to pick up on and the continuing threads aren’t SUPER necessary, except maybe for Lothaire. And if you don’t start at the beginning, I would not start with Dreams of a Dark Warrior…because it’s very…well…dark!

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  9. Shea
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 18:27:16

    Concur completely. I stopped buying her books two Immortals ago because this series is becoming the formulaic song that never ends.

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  10. Marc
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 22:39:04

    I am currently reading this and I am finding the vampire storylines repetitive. They don’t have enough originality for me. I was confused with your reference to Tristan though as the hero’s name is Trehan.

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  11. Jane
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 22:42:30

    @Marc: Yes, it is. I’m not sure how I messed that up but it won’t be the last time. Sadly, I’ve been referring to him as Tristan in my mind now for some time.

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  12. Bronte
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 00:17:33

    I do find that occasionally Kresley Cole can be a bit hit and miss for me. It feels like I generally love two books in the IAD series, then the next one is just “meh” and then the cycle repeats itself. I had a hard time relating to Betina in this book, maybe that played in to my lack of enthusiasm. I’m still glad I bought it though, and I was pretty excited about the glimpse of the Vreckeners and the reference to Thronos.

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  13. Becca
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 23:23:50

    I couldn’t agree more with this review. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, so I enjoyed it more than I thought, but that’s not saying much, is it? I also thought it ended too abruptly. Bettina was a pretty meh heroine, as well. I liked her “jewelry” but otherwise, she was kind of wishy-washy and didn’t really change all that much. I didn’t find her worthy of being a Queen, at least not on her own. I felt like she needed a man behind the throne to help her. In Cole’s world, that’s not on par with the other heroines.

    I feel like Cole’s becoming over-extended like Nalini Singh, and both of them are starting to meander with who gets the next story. I also want to know when Nix will get her book. Also, Thronos and Kristoff. I figured Kristoff would be next, but now we’re on to this subset series. Cole is doing a Lykae for her next book. One that I can barely remember in the other books. Cole seems to be super-aggressive with her organization (this is a compliment), but I’m surprised she doesn’t have a better arc planned for her series, dealing with some of these characters who have been waiting for their stories for quite some time.

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  14. Bronte
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 03:08:19

    @Becca: Actually Ms Cole wrote a statement that given the overall arch of the series the MacReive story fits in better than Melanthe/thronos or Kristoff/Furie so she and her editor have put that book first. She has also stated that Nix’s story will be the last of the series.

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  15. Amanda
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 12:42:58

    A good place to start would def be “No rest for the Wicked” @JacquiC:

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  16. Becca
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:26:42

    I can understand Nix being last, but right now, her overall arc looks like a cluttered mess. I feel like there’s too many books between some of these characters and their own books. But I guess we’ll see how it all pans out at the end.

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  17. Kris
    May 14, 2013 @ 09:22:20

    While I do agree that this is the “boring” of the 13 books, I still like it as well. I’ll never not read a Kresley novel because I’ve grown quite fond of her writing style and I’ve become too wrapped up in the Lore to ever leave it. I’ve personally enjoyed every book, I’ve no qualms with the similarity in pattern because each book always offered a twist and detour that was truly surprising and thrilling. And it’s in fact right that each book would follow a similar patter, it’s close to the Accession and these events are preludes to it.

    Keep giving me awesome reads Cole! Loyal fan over here

    ReplyReply

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