Also by this author: The Prince, The Raven, Gabriel's Promise
Series: The Florentine #2
Also in this series: The Raven
Published by Penguin on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel trilogy comes the hotly anticipated follow-up to The Raven, a sensual novel set in Florence featuring the dangerously intoxicating coupling of Raven and William…Raven Wood’s vampyre prince has returned, pledging his love and promising justice for every wrong done to her. In the wake of their reunion, Raven is faced with a terrible decision—allow the Prince to wreak vengeance against the demons of her past, or persuade him to stay his hand. But there is far more at stake than Raven’s heart...
A shadow has fallen over the city of Florence. Ispettor Batelli will not rest until he uncovers Raven’s connection to the theft of the priceless art from the Uffizi Gallery. And while the Prince hunts a traitor who sabotages him at every turn, he finds himself the target of the vampyres’ mortal enemy.
As he wages a war on two fronts, he will need to keep his love for Raven secret, or risk exposing his greatest weakness...
Review of The Shadow
In The Shadow, Florentine series Book 2, Sylvain Reynard has crafted a paranormal tale that readers of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy will find mesmerizing. Reynard, in his writing is as cunning as his nom de plume implies, as he is sly like a fox in the telling of his tale of love, revenge and redemption. I have come to the realization that my first glimpse into the world of William York, the Prince of Florence, was shadowed by a misperception. Where others loved and adored book one of the series, The Raven, I did not. I found it lacking in both character development and plotting, as a paranormal romance. Reynard had contemporary romance characters jumping into a paranormal tale and I was not thrilled. I won’t go over my previous review but if you are interested it can be found here. When I started The Shadow, I did not go into the read with preconceived notions, Reynard for me as a reader made missteps in The Raven, but not every author crossing over into a different genre is going to be perfect. When I reviewed Reynard’s The Raven, I used his own writings as the gold standard. But as I read The Shadow I came to the realization that Julianna and Gabriel have always been a part of William York’s world. Unless the author stands up and tells me I am totally wrong, William is the voice of the snarky narrator in the Gabriel Inferno series of books. The tenor and attitude of the character William York, the Prince, is too close to the snarky narrator in the Gabriel Inferno series to be coincidence; which I, like a famous literary detective, do not believe exist. If you don’t agree with me read the Umbria scene in The Shadow, and compare that to the narrator in the contemporary romances by the same author. The characters inner voice is too similar to said snarky narrator. Luckily both Gabriel and Julianna were dispatched quickly in this text which I am grateful. They were speed bump characters for me. I do understand that for rabid fans of Sylvain Reynard’s they want to see Gabriel and Julianna around every corner. I, however, happen to be happy with the books he wrote for them.
Reynard writes vampyres that have lost all their humanity or even a pretense of humanity, as some would believe them to be possessed by demons. The character of William, The Prince of Florence, is a totally alien creature, he does not even fit the demonic possession literary model. Reynard’s creation of his vampires may resemble others, but in their foreignness they are uniquely his own. In this book he has fleshed out the world that the vampyres of Florence inhabit. This is not a world of sparkling vampires, or even vampires that are evil; as Reynard’s vampyres do not fit into any of those characteristics as they are inhuman. It is hard to judge a creature against a blank backdrop. It is as if what connected them to the world was sucked out, as they were transformed. I know a reader could suppose that it is the soul that is missing, but I honestly believe their souls still remain, or at least William’s remains. Condemning Reynard’s vampires could be compared to condemning a wolf for killing a rabbit, or a great white shark for eating a seal; they are predators and the rest of the world is their prey.
This book doesn’t fit the paranormal romance or urban fantasy genre, anymore than a square peg goes into a round hole. It is filled with a romantic relationship, but also a mystery and a moralistic every mans tale. In Reynard’s tale, age has breed indifference and emotional coldness into his vampyres. There is no joy in living for William, only duty. Sadly nothing has kept William and his brethren even remotely of this world. Even the youngest amongst them does not have the human failing of even a hint of compassion.
Since the first vampire myths and stories, the vampires need for blood and its connection to sex has been well documented. In Reynard’s series blood plays a different role than mere life force or sustenance for the vampyres. The older the blood and the individual person it was harvested from the more strength and even insight it can provide. Yes, in Reynard’s tale blood and sex are tied together, as Raven and William have a lot of scorching hot sex throughout the novel. The love between William and Raven is intense. In this moralistic tale, Reynard has made me feel not only their love, but William’s deep abiding protectiveness of Raven.
My problem with the world Reynard has built is that the Prince does not have any true friends or allies, that have his back. I felt as if The Prince was always being circled by carrion birds just waiting for an opportunity to strike, ready to pick his bones clean. In this vampyre world giving up humanity means that there are no ties that bind. Such an empty life these immortal live. The novel brings up a lot of moralistic questions about, justice, revenge, good, evil, love and of course the presence of humanity and what makes a being human. Their view of the lives of even a contemporary is baffling, life means so little to Reynard’s beings. Everyone is disposable, and I read words of loyalty but it is loyalty that is bred out of fear; which is not loyalty.
Then Mr. Reynard gives me a male protagonist in William York, that is viewed by one of my favorite contemporary male protagonist Gabriel Emerson from the Gabriel’s Inferno series, as an agent of darkness. How am I to reconcile this as a reader? How can I adore Gabriel and not hate William and visa versa? Furthermore if Reynard’s creations are evil and abhorrent to God, how can Raven the female protagonist that is good, loving and filled with hope love a creature of darkness? Is William really the male protagonist of this tale? A tale that had so many twist and turns that at some points I felt my head was spinning. I mean this in the best possible way, as Reynard kept me engaged until the very end of his tale.
When William recounts his journey to becoming a vampyre my heart broke for him, as in his despair he failed to see that even the death of a loved one is a teaching moment for our souls. Despite studying under a saint he failed to grasp that one truth. We are put on this earth to learn lesson. Some of those lessons will devastate our souls, and others will uplift it. Because of his shortsightedness William lost his goodness, not by embracing being a vampyre, but in shunning hope and his own goodness for hundreds of years. Raven with her hope and goodness, has pulled back the curtain to reveal that William’s own goodness is still there albeit buried. When William goes to ‘visit’ his mentor the Saint, his plea for help is one of the best scenes I have read in a novel.
The Curia, which was treated more of a boogie man in the previous book, is given a face. They are humans whose job it is to protect other humans from supernatural creatures, but who are able to weld curses to limit a vampyres life span. Hmmm… Buffy the Vampire Slayer aka an arm of the Catholic Church, not out of the realm of possibilities. Considering some practices of Catholic Church are still wrapped in mysteries. So if black jackets (priests) police vampyres, I guess acceptable humans deaths are figured into that policing. How am I supposed to reconcile the way the Curia’s view the character of William as an affront to God? Raven doesn’t believe in God, but I do. So how does Reynard expect me to care about a demon? I then have a large problem because the William in The Shadow I do care about. I even care about the community that he has built in Florence. Yes, Reynard’s vampyres are in the Curia view possessed by a demon, but through his love of Raven, William’s goodness and emotions has reawakened. That spark of humanity is what is transforming William. If their is hope for William, there is hope for the entire species. As the paths of goodness and evil are all about free will and choices. The Curia has forgotten that love can transform.
So, you see my conundrum of Reynard’s moralistic urban fantasy novels has no clearly defined lines between good and evil. The book is about the colors of grey and how, that in human nature, as in vampyres there are degrees of both good and evil.
In Reynard’s previous books art, music, food, and Florence itself I would classify as characters, they are not as prevalent in this book as they were in the previous tome. I did have a small chuckle to myself as William recounts his Renaissance past, as he list those he knew and met, I was saddened that he didn’t mention knowing Raphael. As he does mention the three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo, or could’ve possible been talking about different people? 🙂
As a book full of politics, mystery and suspense, Reynard does an excellent job in identifying all the players without the reader needing a history degree. I was glad that many of my suppositions proved true, but Mr. Reynard would need to rise very early to catch me with my pants down, where mystery and intrigue are involved. He does write an intriguing mystery, but unlike some characters I never underestimated the Prince.
In closing I apologize if this review reads more like a college term paper of the views of good and evil; but for me as a reader this is a book that I would love to debate. I have a myriad of question binging around my head, which won’t enrich this review. For someone who found The Raven lacking, I was enthralled with The Shadow and could not recommend it any higher.