Queen of Shadows
by Dianne Sylvan
(Ace, $7.99, R)  ISBN  978-0-441-01925-0
*****
Fiction newcomer Dianne Sylvan will wow readers with the first in the Shadow World series, Queen of Shadows.  Though I'm a big fan of the genre, I am the first to admit that the constant influx of new authors is overwhelming and, well ... mostly lousy.  Thank goodness Sylvan came along to provide a refreshing new voice.

Miranda Grey is a popular Austin, Texas, live singer and is slowly going crazy.  Her friends think she's on drugs.  She hasn't been in contact with her family since her mother died in an institution.  She's convinced that she gets high off of other people's feelings; but when she's not performing, the headaches caused by their voices in her head are really the least of her worries.  Who would believe her if she told?

Lurking about on a personal level and singing in bars on a professional one takes Miranda to some less-than-savory neighborhoods.  One night, on her way back from a gig, she's assaulted and raped by a gang of men she can tell have been tormenting women for a decade.  Though Miranda doesn't try to fight them off – at first, she's not sure she cares if she dies – she does recover enough to want revenge.  And she gets the ultimate kind: death, and by using the mental power she can't be sure isn't really a curse.

She awakens to find herself in surroundings much posher than the dingy apartment in which she's been hiding for several years.  She is, oddly, not terrified to find a man in the room with her, though she is a bit scared to realize the voices are gone.

He's David Solomon in this lifetime, and he is the Prime of the Southern United States. The Prime is basically the king of the vampires in a certain region; someone who took the initiative to kill the previous leader and was accepted by a mythical and mystical gem called the Signet.  Primes are pretty powerful vampires and then, when they become the leader of a region, also don the heavyweight power that comes with the title.

David couldn't say what had taken him to the club that night and regrets being called away for two reasons: Miranda's assault and the oncoming war his emergency represents.  Though strongly drawn to the human, David knows he must get her away from the center of his world, the Haven, before the opposition realizes she could be a weakness to him.

In as little time as possible, David teaches Miranda to shield herself from outside thoughts.  In the meantime, he is defending not only the city of Austin but the Southern region from attacks from a vampire cult called Blackthorn.  David knows he must go on the offensive, and when Miranda is attacked on his very grounds, he sends her away immediately and goes to war.

Over the next six months, the two must make drastic personal, professional, and political changes.  David refuses contact, so neither knows whether those changes will lead them back to one another or not — though the friends that Miranda made at the Haven during her stay pray that it will. Unfortunately, not everyone at the Haven was a friend, and David's whole world is at risk because of a handful of traitors.

Okay, so six months is a long time in a book.  Somehow, the wait for David and Mira to get together doesn't drag. There's a war going on, for one thing, in the Shadow World; there's a war going on inside Miranda to make herself independent and whole.   The emotion to Queen of Shadows is astounding, if heavy on the depressing.  This is not a light read, that's for sure.  There are a half-dozen or so primary characters who are memorable, and Sylvan does an excellent job of peppering the novel with other necessary characters who won't occupy too much space in the forefront of your mind.  It's not a thrill ride, the action is present but kept to a minimum. The emotional roller coaster, however, more than makes up for it.  Queen of Shadows is dark, it's sultry, and it's absolutely intense.  Definite must-read for fans of Lilith Saintcrow, Devon Monk, Patricia Briggs, and Laurell K. Hamilton.

--Sarrah Knight


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