Friday, March 25, 2016

Ink and Shadows

Rhys Ford
DSP Publications
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

My Review

Having already read two Rhys Ford stories, I knew I was going to enjoy her first novel in a new urban fantasy series. I expected complex and believable characters, frenetic pacing, and a unique storyline. While the story mostly met my expectations, there were a lot of flaws that were difficult for me to overlook.

First, the pacing could have been more consistent. There was so much exposition in parts of the story that slowed my reading down enough that I had to set it aside and pick up something else. At times, the story moved along at such a blistering pace that I had to reread sections to make sure I didn’t miss anything important.

While I enjoyed the world building, imagery, grittiness, and horror elements, the wordiness and awkward sentences got to be wearisome, confusing, and painful at times. The shifting points of view made me dizzy and I often found it difficult to figure out which character was performing the action.

“Standing against one another in the kitchen, they touched casually, although Death was cautious, knowing Ari would take even the slightest hint of intimacy and run away with it. Ari had laid siege more than once around the dark-haired immortal, each time falling back and licking his wounds while promising never to approach again, then swearing under his breath when he renewed pursuit. Now they were at a rare peace, Ari circling and looking for an opening while Death was seemingly unaware.”

Rhys Ford knows how to write scary scenes and conjure horrific imagery. I really loved the descriptions of Kismet’s nightmarish, dreamlike paintings of the sinister characters that dwell behind The Veil and the believable portrayal of his struggle with the heroin that keeps those visions at bay. Unfortunately, The Veil is thinning and the shadows of the immortal world are clashing with humanity.

I loved the relationship and banter between The Four Horsemen – Death (Shi), War (Ari), Famine (Min), and Pestilence (Mal) and the human, Kismet. This is not a romance, though the budding friendship between Mal and Kismet and the love and respect between the two oldest Horsemen, Shi and Ari, lead me to think there will be some emphasis on the romance in future installments.

I appreciate the diversity of the characters and the inclusion of well-rounded women.

Despite the flaws in this story, I am invested enough in the characters and look forward to continuing the series.