Urban fantasies of the ďongoing fight between good and evil behind the scenes of societyĒ vein are quite prominent these days. A new entrant onto the field is Serena Glass with her first Kira Solomon novel, Shadow Blade. She appears to be making the jump from romance novels, and she does a pretty good job in her first full-length fantasy novel (sheís had some short stories published, too). All the usual ingredients are included, and she mixes it all up into an urban froth that settles very nicely into the milieu. Itís not groundbreaking, but it is a good read.
Kira Solomon is a Shadowchaser. Raised by the head of the Gilead Commission because her powers made it impossible to raise her as a normal girl, she has become one of their best. Her very touch will suck the life energy out of a person. Now her day job is as an antiquities dealer, but her night job is to take out the Fallen as they try to enable Shadow to take over the world. An old friend and mentor brings her an ancient Egyptian dagger that seems infused with dark energy and intelligence. A dagger that people will kill for. Does that include Kefar, the bladeís 4000-year-old owner? Or will he be a great help against the forces of Shadow trying to obtain it for their own evil ends?
Glass makes excellent work of creating Kira and the cadre of characters who surround her. The frustrating bureaucracy of the Gilead Commission, the friendship with a married couple who have a bit of their own magic as well as Special Forces training - itís all interesting to read about. Including Khefar and his companion, Nansee (a character with his own secrets which I wonít reveal here), to the mix spices up the whole group.
Thankfully, Glass sheds most of her romance novel roots in Shadow Blade. While there is definitely some sexual tension between Kira and Khefar (that could get confusing), it remains mostly tension. You know somethingís eventually going to happen (though in another book, if Glass continues this series) because Khefar is the only person known to be able to touch Kira without any adverse effects. This time, however, Glass doesnít force the issue.
Along the same lines, this doesnít read like a romance novel with fantasy trappings, as some of these types of novels do. Glassís prose is solid, shedding her romance novel history and keeping the reader hooked. No wooden phrases anywhere, and the dialogue is crisp and clean, making for an enjoyable book.
A couple issues with Shadow Blade bring it down a notch, though nothing that would affect my recommendation. First, the self-doubt that afflicts Kira regarding her two best friends seems forced at times. A situation arises where she ends up having to hurt them, and she agonizes about whether they still want to be with her after that. The self-doubt itself fits Kiraís character (she doesnít associate well with many people, so these two are her only real friends), but the way Glass writes it and how long Kira goes on and on about it become annoying at times.
Secondly, while the book is definitely good, it doesnít do quite enough to differentiate itself from similar urban fantasy series. Sure, the details are different (wonderfully so at times), but the general feel of the book is old hat. You have a hot female protagonist who has some magic and can kick ass as well, a hunky male companion to the protagonist for whom she ends up having some romantic feelings, a group of friends who know what the woman truly is and help her in her fight against the forces of Chaos/demons/Hell/whatever. The female protagonist has trouble in her personal life, is part of a larger group charged with fighting said evil forces, but is a loner at heart and has conflicts with the higher-ups.
Glassís details are unique, but just once Iíd like to see one of these novels break the mold. That doesnít mean that Shadow Blade isnít worth reading - I greatly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Just donít expect anything too different if you are already familiar with the genre. If you already donít like the genre, nothing in this book will change your mind.