Shaedes of Gray

Shaedes of Gray - Amanda Bonilla Originally posted at Heroes and Heartbreakers

In the first installment of what promises to be an exciting addition to the Urban Fantasy landscape, Amanda Bonilla has skillfully created a new version of Seattle where the heroine Darian is a shaede assassin.

Bonilla offers a unique take on lesser-seen Urban Fantasy mythological beings such as jinn, oracles, and sylphs. The heroine herself is able to become shadow and leave her corporeal form behind once the sun sets. Seattle could not be more perfect for Darian’s line of work, as it is often cloud covered, making it easier for her to change shape in to the shadows. As she moves throughout the city, I felt like I could envision everything she sees and feels as she is flying. I loved it!

Darian’s ability to camouflage and to travel lends itself beautifully to her chosen career as an assassin, specifically going after those she and her bosses deem morally bankrupt. Darian thinks she is the only one of her kind and has led a very lonely life until she is sent on an assignment that completely turns all she thought she knew upside down. She discovers that she has been lied to thoroughly and extensively, and we feel her embarrassment at being made to look like a fool.

In Darian’s previous life, 100 years ago as a human, she endured horrific physical abuse at the hands of her husband. Sadly, the tale she relays is not uncommon in real life and it totally endeared me to her. It allowed me to connect with her as a woman, not necessarily because I could specifically relate, but because of the way she details her past throughout the story. I could feel just how trapped and desperate she had become. The victim she was as a human adult explainswhy she was just so very eager to distance herself from Tyler, the man she has been taking jobs from for the past five years. The attraction between the two is addressed right from the get-go, and the tension between Darian and Tyler was off the chains momentous.
“I turned, and Ty beamed at me. It was one of his huge, unguarded smiles that usually made me want to slap his face and then strip off all his clothes.”
After suffering prolonged and extensive physical abuse in her marriage to her first husband centuries ago, then enduring manipulative emotional damage at the hands of Azriel, her MIA shaede maker, I was so eager to see her succeed and prevail. The heroine, for me, became my Hero. When two men, Tyler and another mystery man, end up paying attention to her and demanding her time, she is completely dumb-founded and it resulted in endearing her to me even more.
“Jesus. What had I done to deserve this kind of attention? I wasn’t charming by any standards, and my sarcastic quips couldn’t possibly be attractive. I did not have time for these ridiculous, dramatic, soap-opera moments.”
This pretty much sums up Darian. She is humble, and just wants to get her current job as an assassin completed and move on to the next target. Her strength of character is remarkable, and the dialogue is both sharp and clever. While there is not much comedic relief, there is an odd little character in the form of a seer that gives back to Darian just as good as she takes:
“Do I look like I give a flying fuck?” I asked.

“I don’t know how you look,” I heard her say as the lift began its descent. “But you sure don’t sound like you do.”
Shaedes of Gray is about a woman who has physically and emotionally endured so much over the past century, and truly does rise above the ashes like a phoenix. She is not a wife, or a “made” anything. She is the only thing like her in the entire universe, and she came to it all on her own, in a world that is truly transcendental as well as gritty.

With extraordinary pacing in a peculiar new world, I really had no idea what would happen next, and was so pleased with the way things play out. There is an abundance of awesome action, as well as raw romance, all wrapped up in a fast-past story that is fresh and unparalleled. Shaedes of Gray is going down as one of my favorite new series, and Darian as one of my new favorite heroines of 2011. The next book in the series, Blood Before Sunrise, will be released next July, and Bonilla’s series is now on my short auto-buy list.