Bound by Shadow
by Anna Windsor
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0-345-49853-3
****
There are more than a few stories about a vampire (or werewolf or otherworldly warrior) brotherhood battling to the save the world and finding the women they love. Stories organized about a warrior sisterhood are harder to find. Anna Windsor's White Crescent sisterhood may fill in the gap. Given Bound by Shadow, the first in this series, it is well worth the attempt.

Rianna Dumain is a trained Sybil, warrior priestesses dedicated to fighting black magic and evil since the world began. As an earth witch she grounds and leads the air and fire witches of her triad, which is currently assigned to New York. When a senator's son is murdered in a ritualistic style and important artifacts disappear from a museum exhibit, Rianna and her friends are convinced it has something to do with the Legion cult, a group which practicez black magic to amass power. The Sibyls agree to help members of NYPD Occult Crimes Unit solve the crimes. Rianna is instantly attracted to detective Creed Lowell, but she also senses a dark, demonic side to him.

Since his adolescence, Creed has been fighting against a wild inner beast. He joined the police force in the hopes of doing some good, but suspects that he may be part of the problem. He decides to get some answers from the Sybils and finds himself captured, stripped and eventually imprisoned in their basement. He doesn't mind it all that much, especially since he is very attracted to the soulful Rianna.

Turns out that Creed literally harbors an inner demon which is released when the signet ring on his finger is removed. Creed's origins, identity and relationship to both the murder and the Legion cult is more complicated. Learning about them represents a main source of suspense in this book. It also creates many problems for the growing romance between Rianna and Creed. The witch does not know whether she is falling for a particularly crafty demon or an honorable man. She also has a hard time deciding where her true loyalties lie: with her triad or with the man she loves.

Although everything seems pitted against Rianna and Creed, their story is much less emotional than I might have expected. I suppose they are both much too well trained as warriors to feel sorry for themselves. They are also very honest with their feelings even when it does not show them in the best light. A good example of this is Creed's reluctance to watch Rianna go off to fight. He hates it, but suffers silently. Got to love a guy who lets the woman he loves do her thing!

The world-building in this novel is quite intriguing. Windsor draws on several different cultural traditions about the wise woman and blends them into an original whole. The novel also features several different kinds of man-made demons, all of whom have intriguing lineages. Most entertaining of all is the way the Sibyls travel and communicate across space.

I have read better crafted books, but Bound by Shadow's captivating premise, sizzling sex, honorable characters, excellent action scenes and strong, independent warrior women make it more memorable. For this and to offer some encouragement for strong Alpha heroines, it deserves an above-average rating. I look forward to more.

--Mary Benn


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