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REVIEW: Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla

REVIEW: Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla

Dear Ms. Bonilla,

If there’s one character type I love seeing, it’s assassins. Especially female assassins. I could probably stand to see less redheaded assassins though. Seriously, what is it with fantasy and redheaded assassins and/or redheaded women? Still, the promise of a female assassin was enough to lure me into picking up your debut. I tried to read another debut earlier this year featuring a female assassin, but that quickly became a DNF. So I hoped for something better with your book. But while I did finish your novel, it was with very mixed feelings.

Shaedes of Gray by Amanda BonillaDarian is an assassin. She makes it a point to only kill people who deserve it but there’s no getting around what she does for a living. She kills people and she does so well. Until now.

Darian is also a Shaede. Shaedes are supernatural beings that can turn into shadow at night. Very effective ability for an assassin. People are usually born Shaedes but a select few — the powerful ones — can turn others. The process to become one isn’t very clear — no exchange of blood likes vampires, no bites like werewolves — so I’m guessing it was something mystical.

Darian was made into a Shaede. The man who turned her into one vanished many years prior and is assumed dead, so she assumed she was the only one of her kind. After all, that’s what her maker told her so why should she have any reason to doubt him?

It turns out he lied. Darian is not the only one of her kind. In fact, she’s been recruited back into the fold for specific particular mission. And to succeed at this mission, she’s got to train for it because while she was good against humans, it turns out her current skill level is nothing at all compared to other Shaedes and the man she now has to kill.

I really wanted to love this book. It had promise. Finally, a female assassin who’s hard and not depicted to be incompetent in the opening pages! But as the book progressed, I realized that while I like my female assassins to be hard, I also prefer for them not to be complete and utter sociopaths dissociated from their emotions. Now I assume that to be a good assassin, you need to be able to dissociate to a certain extent, but there’s compartmentalizing and then there’s being emotionless. It makes it hard for me to like Darian.

For example, Darian’s backstory is that she was an abused wife. Yes, I’m sure everyone is surprised that the tough as nails heroine had a tragic backstory in which she was beaten by her husband. At least she wasn’t raped. On the other hand, the reason the husband beat her was because he was closeted gay and resented it. Talk about cliches and stereotypes! A woman can’t become strong unless she was abused? The gay man is evil? Really?

But that’s not even the point I was trying to make. You see, when the abusive husband gets what’s coming to him, Darian watches the scene unfold with no reaction at all. I would have taken anything. Hysteria. Cheerfully jumping in to help. Screaming and running away when she realizes that the man they invited into their house is in fact a murderer! Her dropping to the floor and saying, “Okay, kill me next.” Anything! Instead, I got nothing. She just stood by and watched.

Now you could say her lack of reaction was a sign that the abuse had affected her. That she could no longer feel. But based on the rest of the book, I don’t think that was what was intended at all.

I also found her to be willfully ignorant. It’s not just her actually believing they were the only ones of their kind. It’s the fact that she didn’t stop to think that there were other supernatural things walking around. And to tell the truth, I can’t help but think badly of a supernatural character who has no idea what a Jinn is. When she was human, sure. I can buy that lack of knowledge. But Darian’s been alive for a long time. She lives in modern-day Seattle. She doesn’t know that jinn=genie? Let’s not even get started on the fact that while Darian insists on only killing evil people, she doesn’t actually confirm that the people she’s killing are evil! She trusts her handler, Tyler, to vet everything. I know it’s just a personal preference but I really want my protagonists to be smart and clever!

There’s a romantic subplot but it feel really flat for me. I had no idea why Tyler was so in love with Darian. Was it a genuine emotional connection? Some sort of supernatural soulbonding? Both? Who knows? And I personally found the insistence that Xander was a rival for Darian’s affections to be laughable. I found the scenes where Darian interacted with Xander to be lacking in romantic or sexual chemistry at all. Trying to see Darian as being torn between Tyler and Xander was impossible despite the book telling me that Darian was attracted to Xander. I didn’t see that at all and every time the book told me that, I made a face.

Which brings us to the final point. This book is a lot of telling. It’s also a lot of withholding information for the sake of withholding information. I really dislike this. I knew who it was Darian had to kill the minute they mentioned it. It was so obvious there might as well have been neon orange flags around it. The fact that it took so long for them to reveal the identity in the book was annoying.

While I liked that the novel took the idea of a shadow assassin and showed how nasty the applications of that can be, I really could not get behind Darian. Her backstory was so cliche and she followed the path of many an urban fantasy heroine and started developing unique and random superpowers no one has ever seen before when times got tough. The romantic subplot was poorly done in my opinion, and the plot lacked any twists at all. I don’t regret reading the book but it does remind me of why the urban fantasy genre frustrates me so much. C-

My regards,

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

2011 Spring Giveaway from Signet/NAL

2011 Spring Giveaway from Signet/NAL

Signet/NAL emailed me and wanted to offer up a spring preview of its April through June books and they offered to give away titles to our readership.  We’ve had a number of giveaways (and I suspect more in the future) so we are planning to run these Sunday afternoon.  Yay for free books.

Update: Why yes, I did forget about this.  Sorry folks.  Here are the winners (who have all been emailed. Please check  your spam boxes. You have until Friday 8 pm to fill out your form).

1) Leslee - $25 gift card to an online book e-tailer of his/her choice (as long as it’s easily obtainable) from Deidre Knight
2) Patti Silva - a $20 Starbucks gift card from Addison Fox;
3) Heather -from Laura Wright, a Mark of the Vampire Swag Bag (travel mug, tote bag, lip balm etc), a signed copy of Eternal Hunger, and a $10 Starbucks card to keep you up all night reading
4) Artemis – from Jessa Slade a pair of “Possession in Pearl” earrings inspired by the storyworld
5) Melanie Thomas - from Emma Wildes, a $10 Starbucks card, because authors know how important caffeine is to life.

The remaining winners have won a book and I’d ask you to fill out the form below.
6) Cindy W
7) Nonny
8) Carol F.
9) Erica Hill
10) Babs
11) Aliyah
12) Donna
13) JenMcQ
14) Elaine G
15) Ammarylis
16) Keisha Talley
17) minhchieu tran
18) Mary Beth
19) Diane
20) Jess
21) Amanda
22) Amber S
23) leisa prater
24) ruth
25) Kim
26) Dana R.
27) Shannon H
28) NotABumIPromise
29) Stephanie K.
30) Theresa
31) LadyVampire
32) Judi L
33) Krissy Holstein
34) Tamara Hoffa
35) deanna
36) Limecello
37) Samantha
38) Becky W
39) Lynn
40) Ritu
41) Sabrina



Welcome to Signet Eclipse’s first (and hopefully semi-annual!) Spring into Summer romance novel preview and giveaway. We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to share the books we’re really excited about with such an active community of readers. Thanks so much to Dear Author for hosting us. Read on for quick descriptions of upcoming titles AND the chance to win free copies!

You can also follow us on Twitter @SignetEclipse for more romance novel news, book giveaways, (office gossip) and publishing tidbits.

April 2011

April 2011 Signet GIveaway covers

ETERNAL KISS by Laura Wright

We’ve been excited about the Mark of the Vampire series ever since we first read it on submission. Whether you’ve read heaps of vampire romance already or are just coming to the subgenre, this series will have you falling in love with dangerous vampire heroes and their True Mates. But don’t take our word for it: New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh calls the books “Dark, delicious and sinfully good.”

Nicholas Roman will do anything to stop the Eternal Order of Vampires from controlling his life and using other males from his bloodline–including the son he just discovered may exist–for their vicious reign. Only a beautiful vampire stranger can help him. But what are her true motives?


The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, with the Marked Souls caught in the middle. Now two lost souls will tip the precarious balance…

Hooked yet? Jessa Slade is a fantastic new talent who writes powerful urban fantasy romance with demon-possessed heroes. The hero of VOWED IN SHADOWS is a former missionary, seriously wounded before he was claimed by immortality. His only hope for redemption is a fallen woman who has earned a reputation as “the Naughty Nymphette.” As you can imagine, sparks fly!

RED MORTAL by Deidre Knight

Ancient gods, demons, and Spartan warriors! Fans of mythology and paranormal romance will love Deidre’s band of immortal warrior heroes. King Leonidas has long led his fellow warriors in battle against dark forces, but his biggest fight will be for love. Just as he’s found an enduring passion with Daphne, the Oracle of Delphi, he is stripped of his immortality. Now, unless they can find a way to challenge Ares together, the lovers will be separated for eternity….

May 2011

May SIgnet 2011 covers

DARKFIRE KISS by Deborah Cooke

Deborah Cooke’s popular Dragonfire series features sexy shape-shifting dragon warriors. There’s definitely an allure to a strong man who’s also a powerful shapeshifter! This series has garnered critical acclaim and awards, and DARKFIRE KISS has one of our favorite heroines to date. After surviving cancer, investigative reporter Melissa Smith has resolved to live without fear. Nothing is going to stand in the way of her revenge on the man who caused her friend’s death. But it’s only when Rafferty Powell appears in her life, and the heat between them unleashes the darkfire—an awesome force of Pyr legend—that she finds herself really living.


The Sons of the Zodiac series combines ancient mythology with a band of warriors each connected to a zodiac sign.  We’ve already met the loyal Leo and deadly Scorpion warriors, and now it’s time for the Taurus warrior, Quinn Tanner, to take center stage. Security specialist Quinn is the only person who can help Montana Grant when her long-lost mother shows up spouting nonsense about Mount Olympus, immortal warriors, and long-standing curses. An angry goddess not only has put Montana’s life in danger but worldwide peace also hangs in the balance. This is the perfect series for anyone who loves fast-paced romance with alpha heroes and reading her horoscope!


One of our sexier historical romance writers, Emma Wildes came to NAL after a wildly (pun intended) successful eBook career. Her Regencies positively sparkle with wit, charm, and romance! This book kicks off a new series about untraditional heroines who have postponed marriage until their past scandals are laid to rest. The part-Iroquois hero of this book has his hands full when a new inheritance leaves him with three half-sisters to settle. We can’t say enough about this first book in the Ladies in Waiting series.

June 2011

June 2011 Signet Covers

STORM KISSED by Jessica Andersen

We also can’t praise Jessica Andersen’s sexy Nightkeeper world of modern magic-wielders enough! And neither can anyone else: Jessica’s received endorsements from J.R. Ward, Suzanne Brockmann, and Angela Knight. If you love to feel absorbed into complex worlds and casts of unforgettable secondary characters, this series is a perfect fit. You don’t want to miss Dez and Reese’s story. When Dez goes rogue to track down a powerful artifact, the hunt for him is intensely personal for bounty hunter Reese. He won’t get away with betraying her trust a second time…

EVERDARK by Elle Jasper

When the art department showed us the cover concept for this series, we actually gasped. And Elle Jasper matches the gorgeous package with an engaging, fresh, first-person urban fantasy romance. EVERDARK is the second book in the Dark Ink Chronicles series featuring a tattoo artist heroine involved in a Southern vampire war, but you can jump right into the story without reading the previous book. If you love gothic stories and Marjorie M. Liu, this is the perfect summer read!

FROSTBOUND by Sharon Ashwood

The previous book in this series (UNCHAINED) was just nominated for a RITA award, and the great reviews for The Dark Forgotten series keep piling up. This is a world where Creatures of the night (monsters, witches, vampires, demons, etc.) existed in the shadows up until the year 2000. At that time, they “came out of the crypt” on several late-night television talk shows. But the supernaturals didn’t receive a huge welcome, and equal rights have been slow in coming.

In FROSTBOUND, Lore—the hellhound that readers have been clamoring to see more of—finally gets his own story. As a snowstorm locks down the city, someone’s beheaded the wrong girl, and vampire-on-the-lam Talia Rostova thinks it was meant to be her. Now she’s the prime suspect in her own botched murder—and the prisoner of her smoking -hot hellhound neighbor.

For the giveaway:

  • Eternal Kiss, Laura Wright (4 copies)
  • Vowed in Shadows, Jessa Slade (4 copies) (And from Jessa, a set of Marked Souls trading cards included with each copy)
  • Red Mortal, Deidre Knight (4 copies)
  • Darkfire Kiss, Deborah Cooke (4 copies)
  • Warrior Betrayed,  Addison Fox (4 copies)
  • One Whisper Away, Emma Wildes (4 copies) (Emma Wildes will also mail a signed copy of one of her previous books to each winner)
  • Storm Kissed, Jessica Andersen (4 copies)
  • Everdark, Elle Jasper (4 copies)
  • Frostbound, Sharon Ashwood (4 copies) (And for each winner, Sharon Ashwood is throwing in one of her other titles, autographed, reader’s choice of which one she’d prefer)


So here’s how to enter. Simply leave a comment about your favorite spot to kick back with a book in the summer AND the book that you would most like to receive out of the titles listed in the above giveaway.

In addition, EVERYONE who comments will be entered to win one of the following prizes donated by our wonderful authors: $25 gift card to an online book e-tailer of his/her choice (as long as it’s easily obtainable) from Deidre Knight; a $20 Starbucks gift card from Addison Fox; from Laura Wright, a Mark of the Vampire Swag Bag (travel mug, tote bag, lip balm etc), a signed copy of Eternal Hunger, and a $10 Starbucks card to keep you up all night reading; from Jessa Slade a pair of “Possession in Pearl” earrings inspired by the storyworld; and finally from Emma Wildes, a $10 Starbucks card, because authors know how important caffeine is to life.


Kerry Donovan is a senior editor at Penguin Group (USA) Inc., where she acquires and edits romance, mystery, and commercial women’s fiction. Some of the authors she is thrilled to work with include Christina Dodd, JoAnn Ross, Jillian Hunter, Jessica Andersen, Deborah Cooke, Emma Wildes, Deidre Knight, Jessa Slade, and Addison Fox.