Author: Linnea Sinclair
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Stand alone or series: Sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost; this installment marks book 2 in a series set in the GG universe
**THIS IS NOT A STAND ALONE BOOK! DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE READ GABRIEL’S GHOST**
Summary: (from Bantam Dell)
Before her court-martial, Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk, mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz hoped to leave the past light-years behind–until the news of her brother Thad’s arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.
With a killer targeting human females and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines, Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery, betrayal–not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s Imperial ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their relationship forever, Chaz must also choose–between what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.
Why did we read this book: We recently did a joint review for Gabriel’s Ghost and absolutely loved it. (And since then we’ve done a joint review on The Down Home Zombie Blues and An Accidental Goddess)Needless to say, when this ARC fell into our laps we were chomping at the bit!
Thea: I was taken completely by surprise when I read Gabriel’s Ghost and when we heard that there was a sequel, continuing the adventures of Chaz and Sully, we were ecstatic! And, I am happy to report that Shades of Dark does not disappoint. This book is a whole lot darker than its predecessor (or any of the books I have read by Linnea), and the stakes are higher–naturally, as the conclusion of GG followed Chaz, Sully and Ren as they departed the destroyed Jukor lab in Mortal Peril. Instead of dallying around with preliminaries, Chaz is thrown right back into the fray here as a fugitive captain at the top of the Empire’s most wanted list–and her brother, Thad, is the bait. Not only is the ongoing political wheeling plot top-notch, but even more importantly, the relationship between Chaz and Sully is painstakingly written. The repurcussions of the kyi-bond between the couple are examined at length here, and there are some BIG shocking surprises (I’ll try not to give anything away). If I had any complaints about Linnea’s other works, it was how they ended with every loose end tied neatly in a pretty bow–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in Shades of Dark, I applaud the nitty-gritty choices in terms of plot and character development. The story is still resolved nicely, but without needing to be pretty or cookie-cutter. Me likey, in a big way!
Ana: I too, was surprised at how much I adored Gabriel’s Ghost – in fact, that was the book that turned me into a Linnea Sinclair fangirl – and when Shades of Dark fell on our laps I started to read it as soon as I could and was immediately catapulted back into Chaz and Sully’s world. As Thea says, Linnea Sinclair does not waste time in getting back on track where we left of in GG. But what strikes the most in this sequel is fact that whereas GG was a very romantic, light book with some hints of dark, this one is much more intense, tense and extreme – the title indeed so very appropriate. As the story progressed, I had my innards twisted at some of the plot turns and impressed with some very ballsy choices Linnea Sinclair made with this book. In the end, all turns out fine but not at all, in shades of pink.
On the Plot
Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren is a fugitive, and has been on the run for a while. A former fleet officer with an impeccable record, Chaz was set up to take the fall for a crime she did not commit. Busted out of prison by(supposedly dead) renegade space pirate Gabriel “Sully” Sullivan, Chaz has no choice but to grudgingly agree to help him on his mysterious mission. As it turns out, someone in power has been secretly breeding Jukors–monstrous, unconscionable killing machines–for personal gain…and has been abducting and forcibly impregnating Takas to accomplish these ends. Chaz and Sully manage to destroy a breeding lab at the end of Gabriel’s Ghost, while enlisting the aid of Chaz’s brother, Thad, to help spread word of this nefarious scheme, and hopefully put a stop to it.
Unfortunately for Chaz and Sully (and for poor Takan females in this universe), Thad is silenced and publically denounced–he is imprisoned (again under false charges) and faces an uncertain fate. All this, of course, is a ploy to get Chaz and Sully out of hiding–the stakes are raised even higher when Chaz & Thad’s father is threatened, and Chaz knows she only has a little time before Thad is forced to tell what he knows about the Jukors, and about Sully’s true nature as a Kyi-Ragkiril.
Meanwhile, things on the good ship Karn are not going so smoothly–Chaz realizes that there is a traitor in their midst after an exceptionally close call with another ship. Then, there’s the mess that must be dealt with once Sully is revealed as a true “mind-fucker”. And then, Chaz starts to notice that something is off with Gabriel. His kyi is more powerful than ever before, and Sully begins acting strangely. When they meet another kyi-ragkiril named Del, who offers brotherhood and mentorship to Sully, Chaz fears this new stranger and the effect he has on Gabriel.
Things come to a head, and Chaz is forced to make a powerful, shocking decision.
Thea: As I mentioned before, this is one book that does not waste time–right from the opening pages, action and peril resume immediately following the conclusion of Gabriel’s Ghost. There is a large amount of political intrigue and some complicated reasoning processes that appears in this book, although the primary storyline lies with the relationship between Chaz and Sully.
I love that the relationship between these two is hardly sunshine and rainbows and ponies–this is a real couple that undergoes real problems. Well, larger than life problems, seeing as Sully is a kyi-ragkiril with the ability to create matter from pure thought…but just because of their ky’sal bond does not mean that everything is harmonious between the couple. The focus of the book is on Chaz and Sully, and the changing nature of their relationship; there is much less emphasis on the Jukors and the conspiracy storyline–though it is an integral part of the novel and gives the characters a common goal to work towards.
Ana: This sequel is all about choices. The choices they have to make on how to fight the corrupted forces in the empire and whom they can really trust. Above all, it’s about the choice Sully has to make on what and who he truly is.
Gabriel’s Ghost was a unique book in the sense that it was narrated by the heroine, Chaz, but the story was about Sully. Shades of Dark , I felt was much more about Chaz and the choice she has to make as she learns more about Sully’s powers.
This is so hard. I would like to say more, but to give away spoilers on the plot would be unforgivable. I will just say that Linnea Sinclair sent the angst levels here to the roof.
On the Characters
Thea: If Gabriel’s Ghost was all about Gabriel Sullivan, then Shades of Dark is all about Chaz. At least, it was for me. Like book 1, this installment is told from Chaz’s first person point of view, and focuses a great deal on her interpretations and judgments. I loved how levelheaded and CAPABLE Chaz was in the first book, and that only continues here. As Sully starts to push Chasidah away, she doesn’t run off in a huff and sulk about it—instead, she approaches her relationship with Sully the same way she approaches any other obstacle in her path: with her own acumen and dogged determination to make things work. Chaz is the antithesis of the Too-Stupid-To-Live heroine; she is believable as a highly capable spaceship captain, but also maintains a level of vulnerability that makes her a fully-fleshed out character. Her actions when Del appears to be a threat, when Sully makes certain decisions, and when everyone she loves is at risk are touching and had me gunning for Chaz the whole way. Of the Linnea Sinclair books I have read thus far, Chaz is certainly my favorite heroine. The filter of her thoughts and reactions felt very real, and held me captivated through this story. Just as her character is the glue that keeps everything together on board the Karn, Chaz’s narrative holds this story together beautifully.
And then, there’s Sully. Ah, wounded, beautiful, troubled hero figure Gabriel Sullivan. As I tend to “side with” the heroines (or whomever is narrating—usually a heroine) when I read, I have a bit of a hard time getting into some heroes. Reading about the noble, wounded hero who had a bad childhood but now has a heart of gold and can do no wrong doesn’t really float my boat. Thank goodness, however, Gabriel Sullivan does not fit under this boring vanilla label. Shades develops a different Sully who is dealing with some serious—SERIOUS—issues, and I have to applaud Linnea for her ballsy decisions in this book. Defying convention, Sully in this book makes mistakes. A LOT of mistakes. He makes some very bad decisions, and yet no excuses are offered for him. I don’t want to say much more about this, because I really do think there is a shocking turn of events that is best left as a surprise for readers, but suffice to say I was completely taken off-guard, and I applaud the author for this unexpected move!
Also in Shades we are introduced to the new character Del—like Ren, Del is a Stolorth. He also happens to be a very powerful Kyi-Ragkiril, who seems to have a private agenda in helping Sully and Chaz accomplish their goals. Dell is yet another brilliant, multi-dimensional character to add to Ms. Sinclair’s arsenal. While reading this, I never knew exactly where Dell stood—whether or not to love him or loathe him, especially with his questionable behavior towards the protagonists. Even at his most dastardly, untrustworthy apex, Dell’s actions feel entirely in context for this strong, straight-up character. **Side note: Ana, this is hard to write. I don’t want to spoil anyone for anything, so I apologize if this sounds very nebulous and non-specific!**
Then, there are the cast of secondary characters we were introduced to in Gabriel’s Ghost and who make a reprisal here. Chaz’s ex-husband, Lt. Philip Guthrie–Chaz’s “Guth” (and she is “Bergie” to him)–is a wonderful character that reappears here about halfway through the story. Linnea refrains from playing up the “jealous ex” card (which is nice in small doses, but was played already in Gabriel’s Ghost) and instead focuses on the deep friendship and companionship that these two share–and I thoroghly enjoyed every second of it! Other secondary characters, like Ren and Dorsie, are staples here too–but do not get nearly as much screen time as in the first book (Ren in particular)…which is just fine. With so much going on with Chaz, Sully, Dell and Philip, it’s highly understandable.
Ana: I agree with Thea: this book is all about Chaz and what she has to deal with. And it is a lot. She tries really hard to accept Sully in all his glory but Sully does not make it easy for her. He is still very much in love with her and nothing will ever change that but with the introduction of the new character, Del, in their lives, a lot of complications ensue in the form of a full phased Kyi-Ragkiril. Chaz’s first thought when shE meets Del is that he means trouble. Truer words were never spoken. It is through her eyes and her mind that we see the changes in Sully and I commiserated and sided with Chaz completely. She has to fight the intoxicating allure of extreme pleasure that she receives from the now different Sully– be it physical, psychological, metaphysical – which are addictive to her and most of all to Sully.
He goes through so much in this book. First the utter disgust with himself, then the necessity to dull his own senses with alcohol but when he meets Del, someone that is not only as powerful as he is but someone that is comfortable with the power, he finally believes he can then accept himself fully – but there are shades – dark shades and in that sense, Chaz is the luminous point that will guide him.
I loved Philip – he was steady and honourable and a good friend to Chaz and I can’t wait to read his own book.
But in the end, the book is really about Chaz and Sully.
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating
Thea: I thoroghly enjoyed this sequel. Even though it is a continuation of Gabriel’s Ghost, Shades of Dark is a novel that holds its own ground as a truly captivating story. From what I’ve read of Linnea Sinclair, this strikes me as a very brave new direction, and I cannot wait to read more. The series will continue, but told from Philip Guthrie’s perspective, in a novel titled Hope’s Folly, out in Spring 2009. I cannot wait!
Ana: This to me, was a very uncomfortable read because I was not only, very tense whilst reading it but also because it touched very disturbing aspects of Sully’s power. It was so much darker than Gabriel’s Ghost – I was on the edge of my seat for most of the time. I guess I was very attuned with Chaz’s mind: I felt deep in my bones her fears, her disgust, her love and loyalty towards Sully. It is a good thing I had the memory of Sully from GG when we both fell in love with him to guide me through the difficult times as did Chaz. Very nicely played by Linnea Sinclair because even though this was a much darker read than Gabriel’s Ghost it was also satisfying for that very same reason.
A final note: If you love Sully as much as do I strongly recommend you to have a box of Kleenex ready. You will need it.
Thea: The climax of the story, when Chaz has a truly knock-you-over-with-a-feather revelation, the ultimate showdown involving all of the major characters is incredible. It’s been a week or so since I’ve read it, and I’m STILL reeling.
Ana: Yes, definitely the climax was amazing, Thea. It has been over a month since I read it and I still feel butterflies in my tummy when I think about it.
Thea: 8 Excellent – So excellent that I will probably buy the paperback version of the book to show my appreciation!
Ana: 8 Excellent – I highly recommend this and Gabriel’s Ghost to anyone. In fact , Shades of Dark will probably make my list of top 10 reads of 2008.
KATIE(BABS) FROM RAMBLINGS ON ROMANCE IS ALSO REVIEWING SHADES OF DARK TODAY! WILL WE AGREE OR DISAGREE THIS TIME? EN GARDE!