Welcome to another segment in our “A Dude Reads PNR” series, in which our delightful buddy Harry, from Temple Library Reviews joins us once a month to review paranormal romance from a dude’s perspective. Please give a warm welcome to Harry!
Harry: I’m the newest honorary addition to the Book Smugglers team [honest to God, I smuggle books home and then lie straight to my family’s face about it]. I get the chance to play here at their blog once a month and my small spot will be called ‘A Dude Reads PNR’. The idea came to be in December, when I posted my Sherilyn Kenyon review and people were interested to see the male POV about Paranormal Romance. The public demands, the attention whore (that’s me) begs, and the smugglers comply.
Author: Sean Cummings
Publisher: Snow Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Paperback: 416 pages
Standalone or series: Series. It’s on the cover, people. Valerie Stevens, Book 1.
‘I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Central and Infrastructure Canada like to keep track of these things. Don’t ask me why’.
There’s a malevolent force in town, and it’s quite literally Valerie Steven’s job to determine who’s behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary. She’ll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by ‘Bill’ these days). But that’s not all – Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.
I’ve cheated. Shade Fright is not paranormal romance. I know, it’s horrible, but Ana [oh-so-devious might I also add] threw this in the titles for me to choose. She told me that it was not PNR per se, but she warned me a bit too late. I had already read the blurb on Amazon, which led to a lot of begging to allow me to cheat. Being the awesome buddy that she is, I was allowed to bend the rules a little and review a novel that should not be hosted in this feature. I will also like to add that I will do my best to not give out spoilers… I promise to try, so do be ready [just in case].
Shade Fright caught my attention with its cover. You know, Urban Fantasy has trademarked the leather-clad, semi-men’s-magazine chick with a weapon. It’s enough to see a different art decision to realize I’m dealing with a different book. I was right! Boy, ain’t I always. I dealt with a Canadian book. Say goodbye to the dark and gritty American cities and say hello to the great Canadian outdoors, though technically Valerie lives in one of the bigger Canadian cities. Out with the cynicism. In with good-natured humor and sarcasm that works. It’s one of the few Urban Fantasy novels to stray away from the UF formula: Violence, Forbidden Love [or at least frowned-upon love], Leather, Sex, Dark Everything, Dramatics [due to the Dark Everything].
Shade Fright is the average Urban Fantasy, but on happy pills, which is why it charms with ease. Valerie Stevens knows how to narrate and leave the readers chuckle along the way as she investigates a missing grain bin. A simple case, you might think. But it’s pretty obvious that there is something incredibly off, when avoiding murder attempts become part of Val’s daily routine. Dangerously underslept Valerie hunts down what caused the bin to disappear and from a malicious spirit Valerie lands in the middle of something much bigger and a bit apocalyptic nature. The joy derives from following the investigation process, piece the clues and get the bigger picture, so I’ll refrain from getting more in the plot. Suffice it to say that I kept reading Shade Fright during my work shifts and got in trouble with neglected clients.
Cummings has made some interesting moves as far as the actual narration goes. Since Val’s been a recruit for quite some time, a great deal of exposition has to be delivered, which he pretty much dumps in paragraph after paragraph. I don’t approve of this method, but it felt as if Valerie spoke to me directly. As if I was at the bar and there is this crazy, funny chick with the craziest fishing storied [just substitute fish with a huge number of mythic creatures and what-not]. It worked, when in theory this shouldn’t work. During the book, Valerie was also kept in the dark on a myriad of things, so that explained why Valerie had to ask many questions and piece things for herself. Though she processes information at a slower pace, which along with the info-dumps slow the pacing a bit.
Perhaps, what was wholly made of WIN was Dave. I’ve for so long craved for a normal guy to be thrown in the paranormal world, while the in-the-know girlfriend gets to run the show. I tired from the vampire hunter and vampire as love interested relationships [switch vamp for whatever] and Dave’s a dump truck driver, who happens to love Mozart, cook and rock a mean moustache [which nobody does after the 70s/80s porn moustache rose to fame]. He stole the show for me, because he’s so different from everything I have read in the genre.
However, all praise aside, Shade Fright isn’t entirely without faults. For starters, Valerie, as humorous as she is, has a hard time coming around to obvious things. She has to be guided and asked questions to come to the conclusions that a) she is being targeted and b) that she has to play a chosen-one role as a defender [a function she performed at a smaller scale at her current position] of all that is good and innocent. Sure, she is underslept and she isn’t enthusiastic to get a high profile, but in her line of business I imagine that thinking up worst case scenarios is a must.
Caroline The Zombie is sadly not entirely developed. Sure, she’s a lawyer, who happens to be a sharpshooter and munch on cockroaches on occasions, so it is interesting to read about her, but she seems to be a gag for zombie jokes. Caroline has a big mouth, but behaves like a de-glamoured Amanda Feral [another smocking hot zombie]. Some of the repartee she swaps with Fifty-Dollar Bill is unnecessary [as is some of the ton of exposition for that matter]. In the end, when it’s revealed that she’s been used, she pouts but it’s not entirely believable, because I sensed Cummings going for a quick wrap-up.
Verdict: Shade Fright shows that there is room to tweak with the UF formula. After all, the world has an infinite supply of monsters and creatures, which are awaiting to be used in all sorts of manners. So why not enjoy it with a quick wit and some humor? Sure, it’s not free of all the tropes that are overused in fiction [end-of-world scenarios or somewhat there], but it’s refreshing.
Rating: 8 – excellent
Reading Next: Scented Dreams by Jacqueline Turner Banks