November 18, 2010

Review: Shadowfae by Erica Hayes

Author: Erica Hayes
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Series: The Shadowfae Chronicles #1
Purchase Information:
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For more information please visit Erica Hayes's website.

Imagine a secret world veiled in fairy glamour and brimming with unearthly delights. A city swarming with half-mad fairies, where thieving spriggans rob you blind, beautiful banshees mesmerise you with their song and big green trolls bust heads at nightclubs. And once you're in, there's no escape...

In a city infested with psychotic fairies and run by sadistic vampire mafiosi, life as a soul-sucking succubus rarely involves lacy lingerie, hot guys or great sex.

Enslaved by a demon lord, Jade must spend her nights seducing vampire gangsters and shapeshifting thugs. After two hundred years as a succubus, she burns for freedom and longs to escape her brutal life as a trophy girl for hell's minions.

Then, she meets Rajah, an incubus who touches her heart and intoxicates her senses. Rajah shares the same bleak fate as she, and yearns just as desperately for freedom. But the only way for Jade to break her bonds is to betray Rajah—and doom the only man she's ever loved to a lifetime in hell.


Shadowfae is the debut novel of author Erica Hayes and the first book in her darkly seductive and erotic Shadowfae Chronicles. It drags the reader into the seedy under belly of Melbourne and into the darkest possible realm of  the fae. The fast paced and exquisitely rendered world of this novel had me reading late into the night with it's taut, gritty noir-esque tone.

The world created by Hayes is complex, diverse and depicted with flowing adjectives that lured me into the sensuous and grungy lives of the characters. It is definitely not the usual fae-fare where good and evil are easily distinguishable. Instead, the characters are all evil to some extent and predators in the truest sense of the word, making this not a realm of black-and-white but one of varying shades of grey. While some characters have redeemable qualities despite their dark natures, others are left without question to be truly vile monsters. The gritty drug addled streets and profuse violence of this alternate Melbourne make for a perfect desolate atmosphere that reflects the emotions of the characters wonderfully.

As a succubus Jade is just as much a killer as the vampiric and demon mobsters that rule the streets, but she is complex and pitiable. Despite beginning the novel on a near note of necrophilia, I was swept away by the rapture of her sexual need and the shame it invokes in her. With serious self-esteem, self-loathing and emotional issues from over a hundred years of sexual abuse, she is still somehow endearing. Her desire to be wanted and loved instead of deplored as a whore gives her a naivete that I couldn't help sympathizing with. Rahajni, an incubus, however, was a show stealer for me. He's charming and cunning and when he falls for Jade it's a tenderness that is heart warming. He is everything that she wants and needs offering her only support and aid, giving rather then demanding. But, you can't always have a happily ever after can you? Rahaj wants his freedom from his demon bonds so he can finally have a life where he can love as he chooses. Jade is the largest obstacle in his path as she comes to desire freedom of her own. However, unlike Rahaj's desire to live and love Jade only wishes to be free of the mortal coil and find peace where no one can demand or take from her again. The fluidity of this relationship makes the characters extremely compelling and I greatly enjoyed watching the relationship flow and ebb.

The villains of the story are also wonderfully complex. While most are wholly vile and deserve the nasty fates that befall them there is a sense of sympathy when they meet their ends. Yet it is the life of pseudo-villain Kane that I found most appealing. Though we sparsely see him through the novel, his is a perfect example of why you can feel sympathy for them. While these creatures have power and stature in the dark world, they are no different then Jade and Rahajni with a lingering sense of loneliness. But, where the atypical hero/heroine take out their emotions on themselves with self recrimination, the villains have a tendency to strike out at the world, killing because of spite and jealousy and using and abusing those around them until the rest of the world is as miserable and turbulent as their inner self. Because of this, the book is filled with dark themes, mainly those of abuse (sexual, physical and drug abuse).

As with any succubus/incubus based novel it goes without saying that sex is going to be involved, however, in this case the vast majority of it is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Sex is most often used as a weapon, brutal and violent with everyone coming out a victim. This contrasts nicely against the few true moments of tenderness showing the vast difference between abuse and love. I actually loved the fact that this novel explored the darker natures of humanity and brought them to bare in this wonderfully crafted novel where none of the unpleasantness is shied away from. It brings a realistic, albeit bleak, edge to the story and lives of the characters and a believable quality to their emotions.

This novel was wonderfully written with a concise descriptive tone that I truly adored. While the darkness of the novel can be a bit depressing, I actually found the moments of contentment all the brighter for it. While this novel won't appeal to everyone because of it's graphic nature, I couldn't help but enjoy the nightmarish ride. With only the tip of the fae realm Hayes created being revealed, I can't wait to read more of this wonderfully grim series.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Graphic sexual content, strong themes of violence, drug use and abuse.

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