Genre: urban fantasy
In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.
Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.
one out of five stars
I should say that I’ve read and loved eleven of Holly Black’s books, so I didn’t expect to hate this one as much as I did. Holly Black wanted to create an adult urban fantasy book, but she didn’t put enough effort into the world-building or the characters. Everything in this book seems like the shadow of other fantasy books, because it’s all just tropes thrown into a world that tries to be in the “now” with the mentions of NFTs, forums for sharing witch spells and witches that could be crystal-lovers of this world only with real magic. Holly Black seemed to struggle to write an interesting con-artist, the flashback scenes where she is trained are the most unorginal and boring. The writing in general is bad and overly descriptive of mudane tasks, as if that is what is going to make the story an urban fantasy.
Much of the emotional heart of this book is supposed to be carried by the relationship between Charlie and her mysterious boyfriend Vince, and the author manages to create such a distance between them even as they live together. It makes perfect sense for the plot, but also not written in a way where you automatically actually care about them staying together. It doesn’t help how Charlie has only had abusive boyfriends (claims it’s a family curse) and he’s simply decent to her. Charlie’s hate for men in general is weirdly written, it’s not a “been hurt one time too many”, it just shows up when the author needs some angst or bitterness. In general, Jessica Jones seems like the well-written version of the character Charlie was supposed to be. Also, I almost forgot how there’s this weird incest issue surrouding Vince that is never adressed further.
One thing is writing a dark novel for adults, another is being “edgy” with no further implications to the story. For a book about a con-artist, it’s not about heists, more a mystery novel. The plot is not that bad, but I had no interest in the not developed characters as it progressed. You can’t have a morally-gray character when there’s no depth to them to start with.