Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shade Fright by Sean Cummings

Shade Fright (Valerie Stevens, book 1) by Sean Cummings. Snowbooks, £7.99
Reviewed by Jan Edwards

I came across this book by accident when browsing the three for two bargains. I hadn’t heard of the author or the publisher so it was a real lucky-dip item. Fortunately it turned out to be a reasonably good read (not all of my impulse buys are). Shade Fright fits into the paranormal romance/urban fantasy slot quite readily with supernatural activity combated by a feisty female protagonist.

The heroine of the piece is Valerie Stevens who works for a Canadian government department set up to investigate and control paranormal activity. She has the usual sidekicks: Dave, her opera-singing dump-truck driving boyfriend; the ghost of former Prime Minister William MacKenzie; and an ex-attorney Zombie named Caroline. There’s also Valerie’s mentor and tutor, a 400- year old Dwarf Mage known only as D.T. And the story? Things are dying. Trees, birds, you name it. Some evil creature is working its way up the food chain toward the humans and Valerie in particular... read on. The plot has many twists and a zillion characters.

This is a fun book; it romped along at a furious pace. It’s the first in what appears to be an intended series. One thing that struck me was that it did feel at times as if this were the second, or even third, book, as a great deal of history for the central characters went unexplained. I don’t expect entire histories -- that becomes boring -- but there were apparently significant points alluded to that were never fully explained. As a result the one character that stood out as a ‘real’ person was not Valerie Stevens but the gun-wielding zombie, Caroline. Now she has some mileage as a character in future adventures.

Being honest, I must say that this kind of thing has been done with more panache by the likes of Kelley Armstrong and Jim Butcher, but that can be said of some other big sellers I could mention. Don’t let that put you off, however: Shade Fright is still a entertaining read and I will look forward to reading the second book, Funeral Pallor.

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