Taming Shadows was such an excellent read, I pretty much devoured it over the course of one day because I simply couldn’t put it down.
The story follows the progress of Riley O’Rourke, a reporter from fairly humble beginnings, who is thrust into the spotlight when the human world is made forcibly aware of the existence the supernatural beings they have unknowingly been living alongside throughout history. Her role in the story initially is as the face of the transition (referred to as “the Night of Revelations” throughout) and as a well-known “Critter” – someone with the ability to shift into that of an animal. Her own form, and shared sub-conscience, is a large jungle cat who is very cleverly always present and integrated into Riley’s character, and in the few instances we read from her perspective I could see Riley was just as much present in Jaguar’s own mind. The symbiotic relationship between them is well written and clever, and while complex in its entirely, not at all difficult for me to understand as a reader.
Riley becomes quickly embroiled in sidhe politics after she is visited by both faery queens and forced to pick a side in the impending war for her own self-preservation. I was incredibly thrilled by the use of old and lesser used magical beings, and the insight to the Winter Court and Summer Court of the faeries. You don’t see it all that often, so it was refreshing. There’s also a brilliant spectrum of other supernatural creatures, including vampires, witches and more besides, and a clever and succinct social structure for how they all manage to co-exist, something that a lot of writers can waffle on about and still not manage to make believable.
I’m always pleased when a book manages to pass the Bechdel Test, but Taming Shadows does it within the first chapter, and repeatedly throughout. Riley herself is a fantastic character, a strong, clever, and easy to like career woman, who is made all the more believable by her flaws and uncertainties, as much as her witty humour and irreverence. I found myself cheering her on as the story progressed, and sympathising with her easily as she faced off against both fairy queens and her own insecurities. There is a strong female presence within the story, something I always love in any book I read, and even the side-characters are a littering and diverse array of personalities that I found myself eager to learn more about as I went.
The writing itself was beautifully crafted, with a great pace and tone, the descriptions lending themselves easily to the story so that I could see everything and everyone clearly in my mind as I progressed through the story. The world Fiona has created is a believable one, despite the supernatural elements, which is something I find impressive by itself. Sometimes urban fantasy can be a little heavy handed in the merging of the two worlds –reality and fantasy- but not so here. At no point did I find myself questioning any of the logic in the situations the characters found themselves in, or wondering how certain things worked out, which is a treat for me as I tend to pick things like that apart as I read.
All in all, it’s a pretty fantastic read and well deserving of the full five stars. I found nothing about it I didn’t like, and I really think that anyone who enjoys fantasy and bad-ass ladies should definitely go and read it. I also think it’s worth mentioning that if you are a fan of “The Hollows” series by Kim Harrison, you would definitely like this. I genuinely can’t recommend it highly enough.