Okay, okay. So it’s been a while since I said I was finishing Through the Veil and for a while I was thinking, OMG, it’s taking me a long time to get into this book, which isn’t usually the case with Shiloh Walker’s books (usually I can fall right into them) but here’s what happened: I’m stupid and lazy.
I got an advance e-copy of this book and I was massively excited to read it because — well, the blurb and the excerpts I’ve read hooked me. So I started it … but kept having trouble staying with it. Usually, I print off an e-book so that I can go relax with it in the sofa (or my car, where most of my reading is done) but I used up my last ream of paper printing off my revision manuscript and was too lazy to go buy another just yet.
Here is what I have realized about myself: I have trained myself too well (and guilted myself too well). When I sit at the computer, it’s either for writing or editing. So I’d get antsy and Alt+Tab to my revisions or the novella I’m writing instead of reading.
So, what do I do? Go get paper? An e-book reader? Nope (although my birthday is coming up, and I think one is going on my list). I went and bought the book this weekend (because it’s out now) and settled into it.Â And … yep, much easier, and I tore through it in a single evening.
Not that you don’t have to pay attention, because you do. In the first chapters I’m still familiarizing myself with the world Shiloh has created, and it’s a multi-layered one with different realms and caste structures, and types of demons. There’s our world (where the heroine, Lee, starts out), the realm of Ishtan (which I wanted to call Ishtar, because I’m re-reading the Epic of Gilgamesh) where the hero Kalen lives and leads the resistance against the forces of Anqar. There’s magic and technology in an interesting mix, but a mix that makes sense — the warriors live in tents and don’t use their tech for good reasons, and I really, really appreciated that it wasn’t barbarians with phazors. It’s fully realized, with reasons for how they live, where they live, how they fight. And the Warlords have their own, different reasons for fighting, and the politics there and the machinations are dependent on individual characters. No hive minds here, but many different motives. There’s a lot to absorb, in other words, but — because Lee is thrust into the world just as we are — it’s not hard to follow along.
Lee herself is a mystery — I won’t give anything away, but there is a real question as to who she is, and how she’s been crossing the Veil in her dreams for so many years. I really enjoyed how that played out, particularly a few of the characters and their roles (gah! so hard to avoid spoilers). The story takes a few unexpected turns, and there were a few points where I was whacking my head and thinking, “Don’t do that, Lee!” but then I’m happily surprised when she doesn’t go where I thought she was going. (I love being proved wrong and surprised 😀 )
On the fantasy romance slide, I do think this leans slightly more toward fantasy — not that there isn’t a core relationship that develops and Shiloh’s trademark wayhawt scenes, because there is. But the setting is a warrior’s setting, so there isn’t much of the softer side of it (which wouldn’t be realistic anyway — there is a lot of death in this story, so anything romantic in the flowers and perfume sense would just feel wrong). And the hero is part of the reason for that; he’s solid and steadfast (and you can feel how torn he is by what the war is doing to his world, and his people) and he’s been waiting for Lee all his life. And because their romance is so tied up with Lee accepting and knowing the world around them, the romance itself is much more tightly entwined with the fantasy aspects than I usually see in paranormal romance (hence the weight on the fantasy side.)
So now I’m wondering — is there going to be a sequel? Because the world built here has a LOT more that I think could be explored, and I’m interested in a couple of characters in particular. No spoilers, but — one who wore a mask and also two on the other side of the Gate, who we don’t meet, but who have a connection to Lee (and, it seems, a reason to come looking for her).
Found wandering in a field as a child, Lee Ross was given a name by the state and put in a foster homeâ€”without anyone realizing she wasnâ€™t entirely human. All her life, sheâ€™s tried to forget the odd dreams that have plagued her, of monsters creeping through the night and a man fighting demons by her side. But the bruises she wakes with are all too real to ignoreâ€¦
Then the man from her dreams appearsâ€”in the flesh. His name is Kalenâ€”and he insists that her destiny lies in his world, the world of her dreams. To save their people, he must convince Lee to give up everything she knows, follow her heart, and cross over into the Under Realmâ€”even though once she does, sheâ€™ll never be able to returnâ€¦