Shadow Bound
by Erin Kellison
(Leisure, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN  978-0-505-52829-2
****
Lilith Saintcrow fans will find themselves delighted with newcomer Erin Kellison, whose writing contest entry, Shadow Bound, luckily caught the eye of an editor and has provided us with a new urban fantasy series.

Not unlike Saintcrow's Watcher series or Patricia Briggs' alternate realities, in Kellison's contemporary world, there are a select few people who are aware of the existence of various supernatural species.  Similarly, those select few are either protecting or doing their best to hinder said Others, and readers will come to find that some of the people on either side are secret supporters of their enemy (sometimes because they are Other themselves).

Dr. Talia O'Brien is a recently graduated student whose thesis – on near-death experiences – has garnered a lot of attention, although she doesn't realize it until it is almost too late.  Talia's roommate was recently attacked by several members of one such supernatural species and finished off by a solitary figure called the Shadowman.

Though Talia assumes it has something to do with why she's being tracked, she uses the gifts she inherited from the being she knows from her own near-death experience is her father, the Shadowman.  Talia is able to increase darkness in an area or to simply pull shadows around herself or anyone in physical contact with her.  Developing abilities to make the darkness something more physical reveal themselves throughout the novel, as Talia falls under attack again and again.

A man with a tortured soul, Adam Thorne's brother is a wraith, just like the beings who attacked Talia's roommate. Adam has scoured the earth for six years trying to find a way to kill Jacob, who has regenerated from every method he and his research team, Segue, have devised. Only the mention of one name – Shadowman – even makes Jacob flinch. When mention is made of the elusive figure in Talia O'Brien's paper, Adam knows he must have her for his team, willingly or not.  What he didn't plan on was having to track her down himself or defend her at their first meeting.

Even more surprising is Talia's ability to conceal herself in the shadows.

Unfortunately, Adam's not the only one who has figured out Talia is something more than human, confirming her suspicions.  When the Collective, the wraiths' growing organization and army, realizes that Talia is staying at Segue, they attack all of the facilities and drive Talia to remain at Adam's side despite her need to run, to exert her independence.

Now, all Talia and Adam can do is keep moving and keep trying to take out the wraiths.  Adam has figured out what the secret weapon is and the best way to attack, but will he and Talia even survive to fight the battle?

Talia is a fantastic picture of vulnerability surrounding steel.  Every time you're sure she's going to bend, she sticks her chin out and tells whoever is pushing her around to stick it.  Adam's a difficult character all the way around, perhaps because his dark side is always so prevalent but, as the hero, readers want to like him.  The fact that he's set on killing his own brother is hard to accept for the characters and the readers alike.  Both Talia and Adam, even during the course of the book, suffer great losses and readers will certainly not be immune to that.

Seriously, think Lilith Saintcrow in her ImaJinn days.

Although wraiths appear much like vampires, only taking souls instead of blood, and Talia proves to be a banshee due to her odd heritage, I would not consider Shadow Bound a paranormal romance.  It is, I believe, the epitome of the urban fantasy, though readers of paranormals should definitely give it a try.  A recent ad in BookPage should help Kellison out, and let's just hope that the up-and-comer will do as well as her potential indicates.

--Sarrah Knight


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