Red-Headed Stepchild: Jaye Wells knows how to take you for a ride

Jaye Wells Sabina Kane 1. Red-headed Stepchild 2. The Mage in Blackurban paranormal fantasy book review Jaye Wells Sabina Kane 1. Red-Headed StepchildRed-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Sometimes being unique is not a requirement for writing a good story. Jaye Wells’ Red-Headed Stepchild is not unique. In fact, it’s cookie-cutter urban fantasy with all the clichés. But, Wells uses all the same old urban fantasy elements to crank out a decent story.

Sabina Kane, a half-vampire / half-mage assassin for the vampire governing body, has been raised by her maternal grandmother after the ill-starred match of her vampire mother and mage father leaves her an orphan. Sabina is just as sassy, pretty, tough, etc. as every other heroine in every other paranormal urban fantasy, so for the first half of the book I was cringing as Wells stayed right on course for what we all knew was coming.

There is Comic Relief in the form of a demon sent to kill her and a nymph/faerie who is supposed to spy on her. There is Romance of a sort between Sabina and two of the male characters. Finally, there is the Unexpected Betrayal and the Dire Situation that threatens everything that Sabina cares about and believes in. This is all well-trod ground in the urban fantasy realm.

But during the second half of the book I noticed that Jaye Wells really knows how to write exhilarating action sequences and interesting character interactions (which get better in the second half). What I liked best was that she was able to make me feel the friction and tension between the different conflicted groups. It was kind of like reading a spy-thriller novel except that the characters are paranormal instead of highly trained CIA operatives.

I will read the sequel to Red-Headed Stepchild.  Not because there’s anything really original about this book or its characters, but because Wells makes the well-worn exciting and sometimes that’s enough to make a book worth reading. Wells knows how to take you for a ride.


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JOHN HULET is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of.

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2 comments

  1. Great review John! Jaye will be joining us in Q1 for an interview. In fact, I just had a chance to read an early arc of the sequel Mage in Black. And I thought it was even better. It’s got loads of tension and mystery but is also interspersed with plenty of humor. AThis series is turning into a must-read for fans of urban fantasy. Stephen

  2. I have had this book on my list to get and read for a while now. It is moving up toward the top faster with all the reads I am getting through. I think the second on is out or coming out. I have to get through this one so I can pick that one up as well.

    Great review! Now that you have reminded me of this great sounding book I am going to have to make sure I get it soon. Thanks!

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