Shadowflame is a book that will polarize readers. The previous Shadow World novel, Queen of Shadows, was classified as urban fantasy but also worked as a romance. Having read Shadowflame, I think I may have lead some readers astray by calling Queen of Shadows a romance. Thinking of this series as romance may cause disappointment in Shadowflame. The conventions of romance dictate that, once the hero and heroine are fully committed, the author doesn’t mess their relationship back up. Here, David does something monumentally stupid and hurtful that threatens his and Miranda’s marriage of three months.
Obviously, when writing a series about an established couple, an author needs to create conflict between the two. A mistake like David’s is not the only way to do it — the communication issues between Ilona Andrews’ Kate and Curran are a good example of a different type of conflict — and I’m not sure Dianne Sylvan chose the best option. I say that because I think it will permanently affect my opinion of David as a character.
All that said, I do think Sylvan handled this element well, in terms of the story. It adds a great deal of poignancy to several scenes in the book in which certain characters, who have every reason to hate each other, have to take deadly risks and potentially make sacrifices for one another. It’s quite effective emotionally.
That’s true of Shadow World as a whole, actually; these books feel like they dig a little deeper into the emotions than a lot of other urban fantasies do. They sometimes makes me angry, sometimes make me cry, sometimes make me whoop with joy, but I always feel strongly when reading them. And the David-messes-up plotline is not the only area in Shadowflame where this occurs. I was also passionately invested in the continuing story of Kat, who is dealing with a big change in her personal life, along with Miranda’s vampirism and a threat to Kat’s life from an assassin looking to hurt Miranda. The healing journey of the abused vampire Cora is stirring as well, and reminiscent of Miranda’s own arc in Queen of Shadows. I hope to see more of Cora in the future. And Miranda gets some great moments herself, as she shakes up the Shadow World and learns new uses for her powers.
I wish we’d seen a little more of the music stuff this time around, though I understand that Miranda’s duties as vampire Queen are interfering with her music career. I did love the scene where she records a song that, due to her psychic abilities, will upset everyone who hears it. I have albums where there is one song that’s too unsettling to listen to, and it’s fun to imagine a supernatural explanation.
Overall, I liked Shadowflame much better than I expected to. I thought David’s romantic foul-up would ruin it for me, but instead it’s just put David in my mental doghouse, rather than the series itself. I look forward to book three, Shadow’s Fall. Your enjoyment of Shadowflame will probably depend upon your expectations; it’s compelling as an urban fantasy but moves the series away from paranormal romance.