Game of Shadows #1
Adult paranormal romance
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In the hospital ER where she works, Mary is used to chaos. But lately, every aspect of her life seems adrift. She’s feeling disconnected from herself. Voices appear in her head. And the vivid, disturbing dreams she’s had all her life are becoming more intense. Then she meets Michael. He’s handsome, enigmatic and knows more than he can say. In his company, she slowly remembers the truth about herself…
Thousands of years ago, there were eight of them. The one called the Deceiver came to destroy the world, and the other seven followed to stop him. Reincarnated over and over, they carry on—and Mary finds herself drawn into the battle once again. And the more she learns, the more she realizes that Michael will go to any lengths to destroy the Deceiver.
Then she remembers who killed her during her last life, nine hundred years ago…Michael.
Rising Darkness is a bit of a departure format-wise from Ms. Harrison’s Novels of the Elder Races, giving us a hero and heroine who will be front and center for multiple books rather than main characters in this first book and secondary characters in subsequent ones. This setup shifts the arc of the romance itself, drawing things out far longer and heating things up far slower than we might be expecting based on our experience with Dragos and company in her other series, and as a result, our connection to this story and its leading pair is incredibly slow in forming and weak in strength for majority of the book.
While the premise for the series is deeply intriguing–the concept of soul mates torn apart and catapulted into a new world where they repeatedly dance in and out of each other’s orbits one lifetime after another–it takes nearly one hundred pages for our couple to actually meet for the first time in their current lives, making the first third of the novel a touch tedious. So badly do we want them to set eyes on one another, to kick-start the palpable romantic tension we know Ms. Harrison is so gifted at creating, that it’s simply hard for us to settle into the story, our nerves on edge and our minds wandering to the moment of inevitability we're so desperately craving.
Additionally, Mary is understandably confused about the radical changes suddenly taking place in her otherwise fairly mundane existence (save for the very realistic dreams she’s experienced her whole life), and given we know nothing more than she does, our resulting confusion only amplifies our desire for her to find Michael and the vital information we know he possesses. Once they finally do meet the story drastically picks up, the answers to our questions flowing freely and forcing us to emotionally invest in the tragic, cyclical nature of their lives. Both Mary and Michael are characters we can easily see ourselves loving deeply as the series continues, each of them strong individually despite the fact that they are quite literally halves of a single whole, and though that love isn’t necessarily established by the time we reach the last chapter, we have nothing but infinite faith in Ms. Harrison’s ability to weave their beautifully chaotic strands around our hearts in future installments.
Overall, Rising Darkness gets off to a bit of a meandering start and never quite gets back on track, the romantic sparks between Mary and Michael lacking some emotional intimacy due to their late introduction to one another. Their history together and the all-too brief snippets of their past lives both together and apart seem to have far more poignancy and chemistry than their current incarnations do, leaving us just a touch wistful when we close the back cover and begin the long wait for book two. That being said, I will certainly be looking forward to watching their relationship deepen as their millennia-spanning fight against the Deceiver continues.
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