Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Shades of Gray

SHADES OF GRAY (Jude Magdalyn series #1)
L.M. Pruitt

Urban Fantasy
Available Now
Received from author for review

Though she is named after saints, Jude Magdalyn's life has been anything but blessed. The death of her parents resulted in life in an orphanage, and then life on the streets forced at times to sell her body for survival. Now, she lives the life of a con artist, reading tarot cards for tourists wanting the authentic New Orleans experience.

A reading with what she assumes is one such client yields highly atypical results as events take place and information comes to light revealing Jude to be the preordained leader of the Covenant, a group of powerful individuals warring with an organized group of vampires. Now she finds herself in the middle of a life she never thought possible, surrounded by people with whose hopes and dreams she is burdened, destined to fill a role she's not sure she can handle.

With the guidance of her mentor Gillian and the occasional pointer from vampire warrior Williams, Jude begins to hone her powers and train for the war everyone says is coming, and coming quickly. Jude has only ever had to care for herself, but now she bears the responsibility of dozens of lives, young and old alike, and as much as there are those outside the Covenant who wish her harm, she may face an even greater threat from within.


Shades of Gray wastes little time introducing us to the action, immediately catapulting us into a richly diverse and slightly eerie post-Katrina New Orleans as our heroine realizes she's an intrinsic part of a war humanity has no idea is being waged. Typically, finding ourselves in the middle of events quickly is welcome, as world building and extensive descriptions of characters and locations make for a slower pace where our involvement in the story is delayed considerably. However, the lack of history in this tale keeps us on the fringes of the battle as opposed to being on the front lines, our limited knowledge preventing us from fully ascertaining the magnitude of what Jude and company are fighting for. The villain is clear, but the specifics of how the opposing factions came to be and why their hatred burns so bright remains muddied. Therefore, our emotional response when good lives are lost is stunted, our hearts merely bruised instead of shattered beyond repair as the full weight of their sacrifice remains outside our realm of understanding.

Jude has an incredibly smart mouth and a bottomless reservoir of pithy remarks, and while this makes for some extraordinarily entertaining witty repartee, her sarcasm is sometimes layered so thick it forms a coat of armor around her we are unable to chink, thus keeping the sentiments underneath out of our reach. She also at times makes herself difficult to like, one instance in particular with regard to Williams, engaging in an activity during a time of grief from which she knows she should walk away, having the presence of mind to know it's wrong but not the emotional strength to refuse the comfort. When the dust settles, she immediately cries foul, making a monster of a man who, based on the information we've been provided, doesn't entirely deserve the label. Her attention shifts from Williams to Covenant member Theo quickly and easily prior to the grief episode, and when he provides her with an out from blame for the entire ordeal she latches onto it with a shocking intensity, assuaging her guilt and transferring her hurt and pain to Williams's broad shoulders. She is strong and independent, but her shortcomings force us to keep our distance when we might otherwise be drawn in by a friend, a confidante, and an able leader.

The secondary characters are beautifully portrayed however, a wide array of personalities overflowing with flaws and vulnerabilities as well as unique gifts and inherent strengths that add a fascinating layer to the story. Our affection for Williams is instant and unwavering, one of the reasons why his quick dismissal by Jude and his subsequent treatment at her hands leaves us a bit confused, wondering if we agree with her that our loyalty has been misplaced. He is a vampire of many secrets who acts in ways that, despite their mysteriousness, are in her best interest even if she fails to view them as such. As much as we would like to hate Theo and render him a usurper of Jude's attentions whom we adamantly deny the gift of our affection, Ms. Pruitt makes him very difficult to dislike. He takes Jude's snarky comments in stride and instead of meekly accepting them or lashing out in anger, absorbs them and slings them back at her with the added facet of guidance, helping her to extend her powers and be the ray of hope they need her to be.

We are left with an interesting development in Jude's personal life, one with far-reaching implications for both the war itself and her existence as a whole. It's clear we have as much to learn as Jude, and here's hoping we get a touch more information in book two so that we no longer have to crouch on the sides of the fighting ring, but rather get to have our hands tagged so we can cross the ropes and enter the fray.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Nice review. Never heard of this book before.

  2. Awesome review, Jenny! I love how thoughtful and balanced it is - addressing both what you love and didn't love about the book. It's hard when characters leave you wondering just how exactly you feel about them, but I'm glad the secondary characters picked up the slack :)

  3. Beautifully written review. I love how deeply you go into the description of Jude. I also like how the secondary characters seem to have a bit more meat to them. Seems to be the sort of book that I would like, and I haven't heard of it before this, so thank you.

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  4. Very nice review! Book 1 in a series is usually my least favorite because the storyline sometimes goes unresolved and the info is confusing. You did a great job of balancing the review!

  5. Savy - I hadn't either, but despite some of the flaws, it was an interesting read!

    Melissa - Thank you! It was definitely hard to figure Jude out sometimes, but Williams and Theo were quite enjoyable:)

    Linds - Thank you very much!

    Felicia - I agree, most of the time I like the later books for just the reason you said. I have high hopes for book 2:)

  6. Such a beautifully written review. I can tell how much you invested of yourself.

  7. Sounds very interesting. It sounds like the lack of knowledge of the history would be frustrating. Or was it neat to learn with the main character?

  8. For a second I thought you were reviewing Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde (which is an aweeesome novel if you like Dystopia... or even if you don't) and I got all excited because I haven't seen many reviews on it. Your reviews are always so well written that it's a pleasure to read them.

  9. Petty - Thank you very much!

    Alison - It would have been neat to learn with the main character except she didn't learn anything either, so we were all kind of in the middle of a war we knew nothing about. That's what was a little frustrating:)

    bookwurrm - I do like dystopia, so I'll have to check that one out! And thank you, I'm glad you enjoy the reviews, I know I get a bit wordy at times:/

  10. i really like the sound of this however i can imagine myself feeling conflicted with it, good job!

  11. Hiya!
    Fantastic review! I'm a huge HUGE fans of New Orleans fiction, and dystopian fiction, and I really enjoyed your in-depth character analysis--fascinating to read! Great review :-)


  12. Blueicegal - Thanks!

    Darkeva - Glad you enjoyed:):)

  13. You are such a good writer. Honestly, all a book has to do is take place in NOLA to catch my interest, but this book does sound interesting. I'll take note of the ambiguity though.

  14. All I can think is "this little onion has layers". I can certainly understand why Jude keeps an armor around herself. Her past sounds pretty harsh.

    I have to admit, I love NOLA, so any stories that take place there are a special delight. Though throwing vampires in the mix is not especially unique, it does get my heart beating. LOL

    Beautiful review as always!

  15. Midnyte - Thank you so much! NOLA is a fabulous setting for books, I'm always drawn to the ones that feature it:)

    Missie - So true, I'd be really interested to see what you thought of this one.

  16. Wonderful Review, as always. The premise of this book sounds very interesting, but from reading the review it seems like the execution is a bit...angsty.

    Still, chalk up another one for the tbr list!