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Book Review: Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl

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Earlier this year, Lynn Viehl released the latest (and sadly the last) volume in her wildly original Darkyn series, Stay the Night. True to Viehl’s creative style, she planted the seeds of a spin-off series by the end of this book and gave a sample chapter from the inaugural story of her new Kyndred series, Shadowlight – just to pique the senses.

The idea of a spin-off book series intrigued me, especially since I couldn’t help but feel I was left hanging a little after reading Stay the Night. Her new take on the vampire mythos through the Darkyn series (check out my Stay the Night review for a recap ) was awesome and wonderfully complex.

In fact, the whole series showcases Viehl’s skill with the pen and story structure, which in turn set my expectations high for Shadowlight and prompted me to contact Viehl directly for a galley to read. She graciously acquiesced and off I went to discover this new, yet familiar world she created.

The Kyndred series centers on a small population of orphaned children were genetically enhanced with the same virus that caused the Darkyn to rise from the dead stronger than any mortal, immense longevity, and some special powers unique to the individual. For some reason, though, these children (dubbed the Kyndred) grew up semi-normally, only to die and reawaken with these new powers and no explanation as to why they live.

Jessa Bellamy is our heroine in Shadowlight and has no clue that there is anything amiss with her, other than she can’t touch anyone without knowing the worst things that have happened to them or have done. However, just because she doesn’t know she’s Kyndred doesn’t mean others don’t.

Genaro, the owner of GenHance, a multi-billion-dollar biotech company that is a front for its master’s development of the same agent that turned innocent children into Kyndred, has identified Jessa as his latest target. He plans to grab, dissect, and dispose of her to further his research. Of course, like any good master villain, he sends his underlings to do his dirty work.

Then there’s Gaven Matthias, who is intent on stopping Genaro from getting anywhere near Jessa – by kidnapping her first. He’s cagey, mysterious, and definitely hot, but has a mission to identify and save as many Kyndred as possible – especially since it appears he was the first (just one of many question marks left open by the end of the book).

Like Viehl’s previous books, the plot here is intricate and induces page turning – an attribute I greatly admire in her work. Unfortunately, for a first book in a new series, it is almost too complex, with a whole cast of characters being introduced and jumps in time that leave you wondering what the heck is going on at times.

It also gets off to a slow start as the foundation of back-story (which you won’t understand until later on in the book) is laid. I also noted that there was not as much of a pull between her male and female lead throughout the story as I would expect from her characters. Sure, there is some attraction going on throughout the story, and, of course, they inevitably get together, but I wasn’t really feeling like it was natural or climactic when it finally happens.

That said, I think Viehl introduced a very interesting mix of personalities, motivations, and powers in her new characters. She also brings in old favorite characters from the Darkyn series. For example, Sam and Lucan (heroine and hero of Dark Need) provide an interesting subplot and create a link between the Kyndred (which Sam was, but doesn’t even know about now) and Darkyn. I think Viehl holds a special place in her heart for these two characters, since it’s the third story she’s written where they play a significant role.

Viehl also takes us down a historical path that pre-dates the Darkyn, which according to her lore manifested shortly after the Crusades. Shadowlight goes back to ancient Rome and hints that there is much, much more to learn about the Darkyn/Kyndred phenomenon than even the most engrossed reader could imagine.

I also like the more modern and less “curse” focused storylines that are at play here. The Darkyn series blended modern attitudes from the “new” characters with the old beliefs of medieval men and women. Shadowlight heralds in a new age of history, logic, and science.

I hate to say it, but I’d give Shadowlight between a C and C+, with the caveat that any fan of the Darkyn series should read it in order to continue their obsession with Viehl’s universe. Those new to her work may find themselves confused, to which I urge them to go read all of the Darkyn books and then give Shadowlight another chance. 

I have no doubt that all will be revealed in time and that the second installment in this series will be less extreme in its complexity. I believe that like any good writer, she’ll learn from what works and what doesn’t in her work and use those lessons in future work.

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About Robin Kavanagh