Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Sins & Shadows by Lyn Benedict

Sins and Shadows (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
by Lyn Benedict (this domain name is the victim of nasty domain squatter; don't visit)
Also known as Lane Robins (safe to visit)
Publisher: Ace
Special Feature
Paperback - 7.99

Sylvie Lightner is no ordinary P.I. She specializes in cases involving the unusual, in a world where magic is real—and where death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.

But when an employee is murdered in front of her, Sylvie has had enough. After years of confounding the dark forces of the Magicus Mundi, she’s closing up shop—until a man claiming to be the God of Justice wants Sylvie to find his lost lover.

It took me longer than I expected to finish Sins & Shadows by Lyn Benedict. It wasn't the fault of the book; I just don't read as fast as I used to. No, let me rephrase. I read at the same speed, but I have less time to devote to reading.

I've now finished Sins & Shadows, so here goes. The book is very readable. It's also what I would consider light reading, despite the fact that there's a lot of death and destruction and the protagonist, Sylvie Lightner, is forced to ask herself whether she might be just as bad as the "monsters" (human or otherwise) that she kills.

I think the reason I still consider this book light reading, despite all the dark stuff, is that I never got very far into Sylvie's mind or emotions. She questions herself, but I didn't feel it with her. I wasn't emotionally engaged in her struggles, so the book ended up being a fun adventure novel, but not anything very deep.

One section of it was an exception, though. The exception consists of approximately three chapters where we get Sylvie trying to force her will on a certain god character. I can't identify the god because it would be a spoiler. Sylvie wants him to do something he needs to do, but the god doesn't want to, and the result is a very interesting three chapters where Lyn Benedict pulls us into the god's emotions from Sylvie's point of view. I realize that may not sound exciting, but trust me, it was. And there was action, too.

That particular god was the most interesting character, I felt. He had more shades of gray than the others, more internal struggles. The others, well, they served the plot.

One character I wasn't expecting put in an appearance: Lilith (I hope it's not a spoiler to mention her). So now I have to ask, is Lilith common in urban fantasy? I lauded Red-Headed Stepchild as original for including her, but maybe I was wrong. I haven't been reading urban fantasy long enough to pick up on all the tropes and cliches.

My final complaint has nothing to do with the quality of this particular book. The problem is I'm tired of kick-ass female protagonists who don't know when to keep their mouths shut. Sins & Shadows has one. So do a whole ton of other urban fantasy novels. I realize these are strong women, but I think it's possible to be a strong woman without necessarily kicking physical ass or mouthing off. It would be really nice to read about a different personality type. Or a man.


Tia Nevitt said...

I'm afraid I agree with you about the snark. If you're getting tired of urban fantasy, too, I wonder if everyone else is? Other bloggers still seem pretty happy with it.

Kimber An said...

Well, I passed on this one completely because I swear I'll gag if I have to read another Kick-Butt Heroine. The exception is novels by my already favorite authors. Even with them... Anyway, I love strong women characters and like Paranormal Romance in general, but I'm just sick of the stereotype. Make her a mommy, give her European upper class good manners, McGyver type skills instead of weaponery, something, anything, variety please!

Tia Nevitt said...

The one I just got from Juno Books--Amazon Ink--is about an Amazon mommy living in the States as a tattoo artist. I'm thinking it might be an interesting read for the mother-daugher angle alone. Here's the blurb:

It's been ten years since Melanippe Saka left the Amazon tribe in order to create a normal life for her daughter, Harmony. True, running a tattoo parlor in Madison, Wisconsin, while living with your Amazon warrior mother and priestess grandmother is not everyone's idea of normal, but Mel thinks she's succeeded at blending in as human.

Turns out she's wrong. Someone knows all about her, someone who's targeting young Amazon girls, and no way is Mel going to let Harmony become tangled in this deadly web. With her mother love in overdrive, Ms. Melanippe Saka is quite a force...even when she's facing a barrage of distractions -- including a persistent detective whose interest in Mel goes beyond professional, a sexy tattoo artist with secrets of his own, and a seriously angry Amazon queen who views Mel as a prime suspect. To find answers, Mel will have to do the one thing she swore she'd never do: embrace her powers and admit that you can take the girl out of the tribe...but you can't take the tribe out of the girl.

-Kelly Meding said...

Lilith seems to be getting more popular these days. She's also featured in Jackie Kessler's Hell on Earth series. I want to say I've seen her used to explain vampires in another series (not RHSC), but it's escaping me.

Kimber An said...

Oh, cool, Tia. What's the title? Want it, want it!

Tia Nevitt said...

Amazon Ink. Pocket/Juno books, mass market paperback. I'll do a debut showcase on it tomorrow.

Raven said...

It's not so much urban fantasy I'm tired of as that particular type of heroine. As Kimber An says, give me variety! I like fantasy in urban settings, but can't somebody fresh be the protagonist?

I agree, the mother-daughter angle in the Amazon book sounds more promising. :)

Kelly, thanks for the info on Lilith. She's the kind of thing that only feels fresh the first time, at least to me. I can see why writers might turn to her as a vampire origin myth, though.

superwench83 said...

The mouthy, snarky heroine is the main reason I don't read much urban fantasy. I don't get along well with those kind of people in real life, and I don't want to devote my free time to fictional people of that sort. If you don't mind vampires, one urban fantasy novel I read where the heroine was refreshingly intelligent about keeping her mouth shut is Nightwalker by Jocelynne Drake. She's still a kick-ass heroine, but without such a big mouth.

Raven said...

Thanks, superwench, I'll look for that one. I don't mind vampires at all.

the wanderer said...

Kelly Gay has an urban fantasy debut coming out (11/09) called Better Part of Darkness and it's a little bit of a different angle on the protagonist as well:

Divorced mother of one, Charlie Madigan, lives in a world where the beings of heaven and hell exist among us...when a new off-world drug is released in Underground Atlanta, her daughter is targeted, and her ex-husband makes a fateful bargain to win her back, there's nothing in heaven or earth (or hell for that matter) that Charlie won't do to set things right.

Tia Nevitt said...

Gosh, I feel bad that we're discussing other books on this review of Sins and Shadows.

However, I just had to say that Kelly Gay is a frequent guest here at Fantasy Debut, and I'm looking forward to reading her book. Hmm. Maybe Raven and I could do a joint review. I haven't tried that yet here at FD, and other sites do it with great success.

I hear Patricia Brigg's books don't have a lot of snark, either. That's one series I'll have to try in between debuts.

Chicory said...

The description as a fun adventure novel makes this book sound worth looking into (for me.) I don't read enough urban fantasy to be tired of the tropes. I dip into urban fantasy now and then, but when I want a real-world setting I usually head strait for the mystery section.

Kimber An said...

I'll check it out, wanderer.

Raven said...

Thanks for that note, wanderer.

A joint review would be a fun thing to try. Plus it would keep Tia and me from fighting over a book we both want to read!

Chicory, I hope you enjoy Sins & Shadows!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I'm enjoying Sins & Shadows, despite the fact I'm not big on Urban Fantasy. I would like to see a bit more of Sylvie's emotions and thoughts.

I keep feeling like this is the second in the series and coming in on the action after the fact and with much of who and what Sylvie is, her emotions, how she got to be what she is, all the normal background you would get in the first book with character set up, is missing. Checking around, this is the first book Lyn has published.

Still, the book is good and keeps my interest.

Tia said...

She published other, unrelated novels as Lane Robins. Her first novel was called Maledicte.