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Lisa [userpic]
Christina Dodd: Into the Shadow
by Lisa (troutqueen)
at July 11th, 2008 (12:43 pm)

Into the Shadow
Christina Dodd
Darkness Chosen Book 3

C-

**Review contains some mild spoilers**

*Note: I apologize in advance for any weird sentences and spellings. I’m on a percocet right now :)

I’ve been following this quadrilogy (is that correct terminology?) after the premise of the series intrigued me. I haven’t read Dodd in about 5 years, though I lump her with Quinn and Kleypas as “Fluffy but fun reads.” I really enjoyed the first one, Scent of Darkness, and was ambivalent to the second one, Touch of Darkness. I wanted to like Into the Shadow more, but it just suspended my disbelief a bit too much.

Adrik Wilder (aka Warlord – no, not a warlord, but Warlord) left his family after a horrible crime that he felt he wouldn’t be forgiven for. He hides in the Himalayan mountains, leading an army of mercenaries and doing all sorts of Evil and Vile things because he is Evil. No, really. He’s Evil and Bad. Really. He is descended from a Ukrainian warlord who sold his soul, and the souls of all his descendants, to the devil for the ability to be the most evil and successful of bad guys. Adrick’s family escaped but the pact with the devil still holds strong and they are trying to break it so that they won’t, you know, burn in hell.

Karen Sonnet is a construction project manager and a workaholic, building a boutique “adventure” resort in the Himalayans. The mountain is supposedly cursed. Must be, since at night, some strange guy comes into her tent and they have hot, sweaty sex for a month, and she’s perfectly okay with this. When an avalanche threatens her life, Karen finds herself rescued...then kidnapped by Warlord, her secret lover. Then an attack on the camp again threatens her life and Warlord lets her go to save her. Karen goes jetsetting around Europe before settling as an events coordinator at a resort, though she remembers, and continually looks for, Warlord’s return. I actually liked Karen. She came across as strong, stubborn and fairly sure of herself, father issues aside. But she wasn’t overpowering and one of those kickass heroines, although with a bit of nudging I’m sure she could be. Her phone conversation with Adrick’s brother Jasha had me smiling. She’s no-nonsense and very capable.

There were moments in the book that I enjoyed. For instance, the first third of the book deals with Karen’s captivity by Warlord/Adrick. Those of you who like kidnapping/captivity fantasies would love this. I know you’re out there – raise your hands.

Uh-huh. I thought so.

But the likeable and interesting scenes were immediately followed by such serious suspension of disbelief, my head sorta spun around Exorcist style. Yes, I know that a man changing into a panther stretches as it is, but there were just some really poorly managed scenes and plotting.

Warlord returns to civilization a programming game whiz. It apparently takes him only 2 years to become a master game programmer (and one of those years is spent as a slave in a mine) and to create a revolutionary game simulation that Microsoft can’t even do yet. Sure. That’s totally doable. Maybe. With an army of programmers and billions of dollars and pre-existing knowledge of game programming and simulation-based games.

Then there was Karen’s father, who doesn’t every give an inkling of approval for her. In the space of 4 pages, he reveals why and Karen leaves. But the scene was written with “INFODUMP” scrawled all over, instead of an attempt to show it through actions. Then his reversal in the end was so out of character (what little of his character we’re given) and pretty unmotivated IMO.

Dodd’s idea of a truly evil and bad hero is one who kills Chinese generals who take pot shots at Buddhist monks or who beats and kills women. Or who beat and possibly sexually assault their daughters. Yeah, really evil. They should put him up for life. His reversal halfway through the book wasn’t unbelievable so much as silly since he wasn’t really evil. Dodd should take a page from Anne Stuart who has had some truly dark and borderline heroes. But Adrick’s trials and tribulations during his year in the mining pit, which was supposed to show him at the bottom of the barrel, desperate and broken, maybe worked too well because I saw him as a whiny preteen. I know, torture = bad, etc. But somehow, the way Dodd wrote the retelling, instead of making me admire Adrick’s strength and eventual escape, I found him weak, emasculated, and unadmirable. Maybe it was the verbiage, or maybe I’d found too many problems with the book at that point.

The heart-wrenching attempted tear-jerker of the climax of the book was overdone and pointless.

All this said, I have to read the last one because I’ve managed to read the first three. Must find out what happens. But what started as a great series seems to have fallen into “Must meet deadline soon!” mode of telling, not showing, and trying to make what should be a dark and serious book into light fluffiness. Pacts with the devil is fluff fodder, right?