About midway through the book, something happens that you almost never see in urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Now I know why.
Spoilers for both Queen of Shadows and Shadowflame ahead!
The soulmate is one of those urban fantasy/paranormal romance tropes that authors generally don't mess with - or if they do, it's subtle. For example, Lillith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series shows you the ugly side of "never gonna give you up" but even then a lot of people missed that point. I'd even say most of them did. There are lots of fans who think Japhrimel's love for Dante is so romantic. Except it's really a terrifyingly inhuman obsession that Dante can never be free of, ever. Yeah, that's so romantic, I may swoon. Or, you know, get a restraining order and a shotgun. But that's the beauty of Saintcrow's writing - her touch is so light that those who get misty-eyed over the romance and those who cringe at the idea of infernal fixation can both love those books.
Shadowflame starts three months after the end of Queen of Shadows. Miranda, now a vampire, is still trying to live her life like a human, until she nearly gets staked by an assassin. It becomes pretty clear that she has got to give up at least some of that, but she's determined to stay in touch with her human life for as long as she can. As someone starts picking off those close to Miranda, human and vampire alike, the situation gets more and more tense. This isn't helped by the sudden appearance of David's old lover/mentor, Deven, and his consort. David has never gotten over Deven breaking his heart, and Miranda is uncertain how to deal with it.
Sylvan's unforgivable sin in Shadowflame isn't just making the soulmate trope more complex than a happy Rickroll - it's the fact that she does it with a hammer. Nearly halfway through the book, David cheats on Miranda with Deven. It was foreshadowed beautifully, and the setup was flawless. In fact, if David hadn't slept with Deven, I would have been pissed off. I even admit that I was a little irked at Miranda when she utterly lost her shit about it. I guess I figured that expecting human behavior from a non-human is naive to the point of foolishness. That was sort of the point of the interlude; Miranda needed to realize that, too. You may be bound for eternity, but that doesn't mean you can't feel something for someone else or that you might not desire another person at some point. (Which is one hell of a lot healther than the classic soulmate trope, if you think about it.)
However, I figured I was probably in the minuscule minority on that one, and boy howdy, was I right.
|He WILL love only me forever.|
It chaps my ass that this book is getting low reviews because Sylvan dared to challenge this preciously guarded trope. This is a great book in a great series by a great author. I love that she knocked Miranda down so that she could build her back up. The relationship between Deven and David felt very real. Both of them are bound to other people, and yet they're still in love with each other. That's sad and different and something new I hadn't seen from this trope before. I don't want the next book in this series to be just another basic urban fantasy that hits all the specified tropes because a bunch of chicks are angry that they didn't get their standard wish-fulfillment story. I want to shake them and say, "Seriously! This is better! This is glorious, cruel conflict that probably won't ever be resolved and adds a layer of complexity to what I thought was just a standard by-the-numbers story! Embrace something new and different and exciting!"
Besides, if this sort of reaction chills innovation in urban fantasy and paranormal romance, I might just go to their houses and kick their dogs.