As a huge fan of Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan, I want to thank Jane at Dear Author for posting this review of its follow-up, Shadowflame. The ensuing rant (not review, since I have not actually read the book) is chock-full of spoilers, so unless you appreciate a heads-up, I suggest you stop reading now.
I admit, I am a shameless last-page reader. I need to know before starting a book that I will be happy (or at least satisfied) when I finish it. I have just come from Barnes and Noble, and having read a suspicious paragraph on the last page of Shadowflame, decided to wait to buy it until I had read some reviews. After reading the review mentioned above, I am so very glad I decided not to buy it.
I’ve never been a huge fan of mated pair romances, but I feel that one of the main advantages to that romance trope is reliability. You know going in that there is going to be an HEA, and come hell or high water, those foundations will stick. One of the things I loved most about the romance in Queen of Shadows was that, while the story was focused on a mate bond, Sylvan took the time to let Miranda and David fall in love before either knew that they were destined for each other. We got to see them form a solid friendship, got to see the little glances and hesitant realizations as each came to acknowledge and accept that they were falling for each other. Most importantly, we saw passions and principles in each character that led us to understand why each would be drawn to the other. By the time their mate bond was declared, I was fully invested in their story because I believed in their relationship.
Whether Sylvan was trying to write against expectations or whether she genuinely felt that this was a good (and hot) character development, I believe she has failed her audience. Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with all of the comments Jane made in her review, but I feel as if Sylvan almost doesn’t even consider what David did cheating. It doesn’t matter that David’s feelings for Deven predate his feelings for Miranda, or that they are of the same sex, or that each has a destined mate, or that Miranda is too much of a doormat to own her feelings of hurt and anger; David cheated, and this doesn’t make him multidimensional, it makes him unworthy. Unworthy of the woman he took as a wife merely one book prior, and unworthy of the trust we put in Sylvan as an author.
I understand that Sylvan likely wanted to show that love is not the ultimate answer to every complication that a couple might face. She might have felt that allowing David to acknowledge his feelings for Deven, then deny them in favor of his love for his wife, would be too trite. I respect Sylvan’s attempt to write outside of the romance mould, yet if she wished to do so, she should have marketed her first book as strictly an urban fantasy. Despite what it says on the book’s spine, Queen of Shadows was solidly a romance story with admirable
worldbuilding. Yet, it was a romance all the same, and leading readers along a path that promises destined love and happiness merely reinforces the expectations that we feel going into the next novel. Sylvan’s most unforgiveable mistake was in purposely misleading her readers.
The fact that Sylvan couldn’t wait until two books into her series to unveil this betrayal is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it seriously calls into question her concept of love if she couldn’t even allow her couple a honeymoon period before one of them takes such a dire action. On the other hand, at least readers didn’t have more time to become invested in these characters before our hearts were stomped on along with Miranda’s.
While I realize that I shouldn’t speak until I have taken the time to read the author’s work for myself, I’m reluctant to sully the memories I have of Queen of Shadows merely to preserve my integrity as a book reviewer. And so, I will choose instead to remember the first novel fondly, and pretend that Miranda and David’s HEA was a true one.