I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Shadow Play (The Fae Games #1) by Jill Ramsower
They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger—if that's the case, I better be badass by the time this is over.
After two years at a dead-end job, Rebecca Peterson finally walks away from everything she knows to follow her dreams in Ireland. Instead of dreams, the dreary streets of Belfast rekindle her terrifying nightmares, and this time they aren't confined to her imagination. Twisted and vicious, Faeries are being unleashed on Earth to prey upon humans, who are unaware of the vile creatures walking among them. Becca must stay alive long enough to learn why she can see what others can't, and even more importantly, discover how to keep the Fae from destroying life on Earth.
Delving into the underbelly of the city, Becca discovers that she is not entirely alone in her abilities; however, centuries of secrecy makes gathering information a challenge. When Becca crosses paths with two mysterious strangers, her life is only complicated further. The gorgeous but brooding Lochlan demands complete honesty but refuses to provide any answers of his own. On the other hand, Ronan is enigmatic and charming, and with his sights set on making Becca his, he offers more help than most. But Becca quickly learns that trusting others is difficult when you have secrets of your own. Sometimes, the enemy is within....
I tried really hard to like this book. There are a lot of good elements that I really, really liked but I think that they were executed poorly.
The concept of the story is great, reading the synopsis I couldn’t wait to jump into this world with Fae entering the human world and Rebecca caught getting caught in the middle. Then throw in the mystery surrounding why she is the only one who can see the Fae and the promise of a hunky Fae love interest and you have me hooked. Shadow Play is the author’s first book and I think that it reads that way. I do believe that there is potential for improvement and I am sure that with the following issues addressed, the second book will be so much better.
I think that the best way for me to write this review is to break it down into individual categories.
Characters– Not all of the characters were bad, with that being said, I do think that overall the whole book lacks character complexity or depth. I took most issue with our main character Rebecca. Throughout the book, I was so frustrated and tired of all of her decisions and how whiny and needy she is. I hated her reasoning behind her actions or should I say lack of reasoning because she doesn’t make any sense at all. She openly acknowledges that her actions are a bad decision but then goes ahead and does it anyway. This is a literal quote of what I mean:
“When my temper came to life, my decisions weren’t always rational and that night was a case in point.”
If you think that this was the only instance of her impulsivity, you are wrong. This happens multiple times throughout the story and I just don’t understand her. These next few quotes are also evidence of this:
“I didn’t have a good answer for why I was intensely compelled to learn as much as I could about what was going on.”
“Once I got it in my head that I needed to know what was going on, there was no stopping me.”
Rebecca is set up to be a smart, independent, attractive woman who may have special abilities that are now just coming to light but unfortunately she breaks character often enough that I just don’t believe it. I don’t see what is supposed to be so special about her that has two gorgeous Fae men fawning over her (more to come on this later) and I see her as an immature, dim witted, character that just goes along with everything that people tell her and has no independent thoughts for herself. Seriously, Rebecca will believe everything you tell her.
Writing– I thought the writing was mostly telling instead of showing. It was written very much like, “I went to work. Then I saw a strange man. Then I went home. Then I saw another strange man. Then this strange thing happened. Then that strange thing happened.” It just felt so emotionless. There were few action moments but nothing that kept me in anticipation of what would happen next. I’m having a hard time connecting with what was driving the story, if I had to guess, I would say that it was the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s newfound abilities. Whatever it was, it lacked substance. I also still don’t know who or what we are fighting against. Is it Merlin? Who is the villain? Again, no depth, there is just evil for the sake of evil.
Pacing– The pacing didn’t work for me. Rebecca is in New York for the last 2 years waitressing since she can’t get a job with her degree and before we know it she lands her dream job in a museum in Ireland without any effort. Now we’re in Belfast and everything strange starts happening from the moment she steps off the plane. In a matter of days she encounters several Fae and is suddenly forcefully inserts herself in this whole new world just because. I also didn’t understand the point of her day trip to Faery- I hated how Rebecca just went along with everything and didn’t even question it. There was also mention of a traitor in the huntsman which could have added some more action but this was never explored further. I also have a hard time believing that all of these events would transpire in the span of 3 weeks.
Romance– Or lack thereof. There is no gradual build or development it’s all just about sex right off the bat. That is not necessarily bad but it’s just not for me. I don’t mind sex scenes but I found myself skimming over these ones. I wanted a bit of that forbidden love that we see in paranormal romance. I wanted at least one of the male love interests to woo Rebecca with whispering sweet nothings into her ears, to make her feel like they have never wanted anyone as much as they want her. I felt as though the author tried to make a love triangle but I don’t think it worked. Ronan didn’t ever seem like an option and although Rebecca found him attractive she never made any indication that she was considering him as a love interest. I still don’t understand what Rebecca sees in Lochlan or what he sees in her. It seemed that every time they had any interaction it was regarding secrets and bickering. Then out of nowhere he just starts kissing her and it’s just so random. Overall I just wanted more flirty banter or romantic actions leading up to the sex. There was just no anticipation leading up to it.
Like I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of elements of the book that I did like and really enjoyed.
Female friendships– I love that Rebecca had multiple friendships both old and new. Ashley was perhaps my favorite character in the whole book and deserves one whole star just for her character. She is the perfect best friend and I wish that she was my best friend. I loved how supportive of Rebecca she was and how she offered to stay with her while she got settled into her new job. I loved that she believed Rebecca even when what she was saying sounded crazy. I loved how she jumped in to help Rebecca when she was in trouble even though it got her hurt in the process and I love how deeply she cared for Rebecca’s safety and wellbeing. Cat was another great character and I wish she was more present in the story line. I love that she is someone who somewhat understands what Rebecca is going through and is someone that Rebecca can confide in. I am very happy that there was no pitting girl against girl and that everyone was so supportive of each other.
History– I love that the author threw in some historical references and I loved how she tied in the story of Merlin, Queen Guinevere, and Arthur to fit in with the story of Fae. The author clearly did a good job researching Fae/Faeiries and threw in a lot of facts about them throughout the story. Fae books are not too new to me as I have read about them in Sara J Maas’s books and most recently in the Cruel Prince but all of the facts are pretty consistent across the board. I also loved that the museum that Rebecca went to go work for is an actual museum and that the art referenced are also real pieces. I feel as though I learned a bit more from this book.
Modern terminology/references– There were a lot of nods to current events, shows, social media and plenty of other things that many readers will be able to relate too. I believe that readers in the Young Adult category will definitely be happy with how current this book is with modern themes.