Bound by Shadow, by Anna Windsor

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009

TITLE: Bound by Shadow
AUTHOR: Anna Windsor

PAGES: 432
PUBLISHER: Ballantine

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: First in the Dark Crescent Sisterhood series

REASON FOR READING: I just felt like reading a paranormal, something new, and this one looked interesting enough.

Falling for a demon can be hazardous to your heart.

Riana Dumain is a fully trained Sybil, a warrior priestess battling evil whose practical magic keeps her grounded in earthly science–and desires. She knows that gorgeous NYPD detective Creed Lowell is dangerous, and possibly a foot soldier of the evil Legion cult, using his badge and drop-dead looks to consolidate demonic power.

Creed’s low-profile Occult Crimes Unit pulls Riana and her two sister Sybils into the case of a politician’s son, murdered in a ritualistic sacrifice. Soon, Riana’s instincts prove true. Creed, the hottest half-human she’s ever known, a demon in bed and out, is guarding a trapdoor to hell. And unless Riana can find a way to tame her mystery man’s treacherous inner self (and her heart), all of Manhattan may be enveloped by darkness.
Bound by Shadow is the first in a series centred around a group of Sybils. The blurb calls Sybils "warrior priestesses battling evil", and I suppose that's clear enough. Sybils organise themselves in triads covering specific geographical areas, with each member of the triad controlling a different element (I'm not sure why triads and not quartets, since there are four elements, but anyway, they haven't got one who controls water in this particular one).

Riana Dumain has an affinity for Earth, and is also the leader of her triad. Creed Lowell is a police detective working in the Occult Crimes Unit. Although he deals with crimes with an occultist element to them, Creed has a secret which means that he's spent all his life avoiding contact with anything connected to the paranormal, for fear that this secret might be discovered.

When a senator's son is murdered in a way that suggests occult rituals, Creed and his partner are called in to investigate. Their investigation leads them to Riana's triad, and the minute they meet, the shit hits the fan. The Sybils are battling a demonic secret society called the Legion, and the moment Creed comes into the triad's house, they realise there's something odd in him. Is he a demon, one of their enemies, or is he an innocent, still a good person in spite of his dual nature?

Both the paranormal elements and the romance had enough interesting ideas in them to make me excited about reading this, but the execution wasn't great. It's a very promising world that Windsor creates, but by the end of this first installment, I wasn't 100% clear on what was what. I think I mostly got enough to understand the Sybils and how they work, but the Legion and their motivations were a bit shadowy. Still, what I could see there was pretty cool. Riana's power is very well developed, with Windsor really going into detail about Riana's relationship with the element she controls.

The romance was better, although again, good but not great. I was very intrigued by some elements of the book, especially by the power dynamics in Riana and Creed's relationship. It turns out Creed is half-human, half-demon, and his demon half is released when he removes a ring he's always had. When this happens (and it happens for the first time during the book), Creed becomes an unstoppable monster, a bit like Rhage in JR Ward's Lover Eternal. So obviously, Creed's got an edge in terms of physical power. However, he has pretty much no idea what's going on, and he's more afraid of what he seems to be than anyone else. Riana and the two other members of her triad distrust him for a lot of the book, even treating him as guilty until proven innocent for quite a long time, but Creed doesn't particularly resent it, because he's afraid they might be right to do so.

Most of the romantic conflict, as you might imagine, stems from Riana falling for Creed despite not knowing whether she's being conned into it by a demon playing the part of the confused innocent, and from everyone else's disapproval once the relationship comes out. It was good, but it could have used a bit more development, especially near the end, when the focus goes firmly on the action and the fight against the Legion.

All in all, it was an ok read. I might yet pick up the next ones.



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