Why I Read It: The Shadows Inquiries series is one I’ve liked better with each new installment, so I was more than happy to pre-order Benedict’s latest once it was available. Sadly, it had to languish for a few months after I bought it, and in the interim, I learned that this book, Lies & Omens, is the final installment, as the publisher decided to not continue the series. Fortunately, the author was given enough advance notice to make sure this suddenly final book had the sense of a solid ending, so I was curious to see how Benedict would wrap up what’s admittedly a rather short urban fantasy tale. And I have to say, talk about saving the best for last….
The premise: ganked from BN.com: Sylvie Lightner is a P.I. specializing in the unusual—in a world where magic is real, and Hell is just around the corner.
After escaping secret government cells and destroying a Miami landmark, Sylvie’s trying to lay low—something that gets easier when a magical force starts taking out her enemies. But these magical attacks are a risk to bystanders, and Sylvie can’t let that slide.
When the war between the government and the magical world threatens the three people closest to her—her assistant, her sister, and her lover—Sylvie has no choice but to get involved with hidden powers bent on shaping the world to their liking. Now, with death and disaster on the horizon, even if Sylvie wins, things will never be the same…
Spoilers, yay or nay?: Nay. Originally I thought I’d be chatting about spoilers, but once I started writing the review, I decided there’s no real discussion in that, especially with this being a last book. So unless you’re in a hurry — and if you are, skip to “My Rating” — feel free to keep reading.
Discussion: I’ve come a long way since reading Sins & Shadows, the first installment of Shadows Inquiries. So has Sylvie. What started out as a bitch of a character I couldn’t stand and a world I was having difficulty getting a grasp on has turned into something far grittier and more relatable than a lot of the other urban fantasy series I’ve read. Sylvie, while still tough to love, is a character who’s utterly devoted to those she cares about and will stop at nothing to protect them. She’s not afraid of violence, and in fact, there’s a part of her that seems to crave it. Not that the violence in her character is the relatable part. Yet what makes it work is the nature of who and what she is. A scion of Lilith, now, in Lies & Omens with the new mantle “The New Lilith,” she’s got a newly minted goddess on her side and her enemies are afraid to piss her off.
Yet Sylvie still can’t go a day without trouble. One of her former clients keeps shape-shifting and causing more and more damage while losing more and more of her humanity. Her whiz of a research assistant Alex is not acting like her chipper self, plagued with migraines and sleeplessness. And someone’s taking out all of the ISI offices, which should make Sylvie’s job easier, but it isn’t.
And thus, these seemingly disparate elements come together for one heck of a climatic story. Benedict brings all the characters (well, most, not all) together for a last hurrah, and by time the book is done, the world is utterly and completely changed, and a new chapter in Sylvie’s life is starting.
Like I said earlier, I thought I’d be babbling about spoilers in this review, but frankly, I didn’t take a lot of notes and I’d rather not ruin the satisfying ending that Benedict has provided. I will talk about what I really like about the series, though, and what I’ll miss about it.
The gritty realism. Sure, Ilona Andrews has gritty realism; in fact, the series are similar in terms of their P.I. heroines who are so bitchy it takes a special kind of person to love them. Both are heroines who are fiercely protective of those they love, and both have younger women as “charges” in their lives. In Sylvie’s case, it’s a teenage sister, Zoe, who’s also a witch. I loved getting Zoe back for the finale, and I loved seeing her interact in the story. Zoe, let alone the rest of the cast, will be missed, because she provided such a fascinating counterpart to Sylvie. The sister relationship was quite well done, and we don’t see that often in UF.
I’ll miss the third person POV. It was something that was jarring when I initially started this series, but now that I’m used to it, I like the grounding distance it provides. It keeps the narrative from sounding too much like every other urban fantasy heroine alive. It’s still a close, limited third-person POV, so one doesn’t have to worry about head-hopping, which I’m grateful for.
I’ll miss the world-building, the way the supernatural are really monsters but yet also something to work with or against. Take Benedict’s mermaids (page 64):
Erinya, in full nonhuman form — a twice-tiger-sized mass of scales, feathers, and talons, and fangs that glistened scarlet in sunlight, her eyes great, empty, burning holes — was dragging a thrashing, writhing sharkish mass out of the canal; gills flaring, flashing red, thrashing tail slicing through the air with a sound like ripping paper, and a screaming maw of teeth under bulging, opalescent eyes.
Mermaids, Sylvie thought numbly, were nothing like in the storybooks.
Erinya dragged the screaming mermaid — God, it must be nearly seventeen feet long — right to Sylvie’s feet and dropped it, then crouched atop it, looking for all the world like a nightmare cat bringing its owner a mouse.
And while this series is nothing remotely close to paranormal romance, there is a smidgen of sex in the series, and this shower sex scene made me laugh for its realistic humor (page 80):
His hands closed on her hips, wordlessly urging her closer, tighter. She tried to climb him, cracked her knee against the tile, and swore, staggering backward, losing that brief press of connection. Missing it immediately. She whined in frustration — but that was shower sex for you, bumps and bruises and awkward clinches that broke just when they were getting really good, terrible footing, and someone’s back always got slapped up against the chilly tiles.
I loved the way she wrapped this up. No doubt, there are more stories to tell, adventures to be had. But this particular chapter in Sylvie’s life is over, the book is closed, and I finished the book knowing more about her world, her family, and her magic than I ever did before, and I was beyond satisfied. It was a good ending.
My Rating: 9 – Couldn’t Put It Down
There’s a part of me that’s sad this is the last installment. I was ambivalent about the first book, but the second and third books were solidly good reads. This last one I had a hard time putting down. I barely took many notes because I was so engaged with it, as the various disparate elements of the story come together in a super satisfying way. This chapter in Sylvie’s life is over, and while there’s no doubt Sylvie’s going to have many more adventures, while there’s no doubt her new notoriety could provide for some fantastic friction, I’m glad to leave the series where it ended. It’s a great ending.
It’s hard to keep talking about it too, when I’m not spoiling the bejeezus out of anything. Suffice to say that Benedict’s won me over with this series, and I hope to re-read it one day when re-reading is a real possibility for me. I look forward to seeing what else Benedict has to offer in the future (under this pen name or her real name, Lane Robins), but in the meantime, there’s something satisfying about finishing a series and relishing a good end.
For those readers who want a dark, urban fantasy that’s more horror than romance (but don’t mind a smidgen of, well, not romance, but sex) with a solid investigate bent, where the supernatural are monsters to freak out over instead of fall in love with, I’d definitely recommend you give this series a try. Sylvie’s a great heroine once you get past her initial, bitchy facade, especially once you realize she’ll do anything for those she loves.
Cover Commentary: Love it. I think it’s my favorite of the whole series, and I especially love how, with the exception of book one (which mostly took place in Chicago, so go figure), Benedict’s urban fantasy focuses on the bright and warm colors of the beachy setting of Miami, which is rare, as most urban fantasy covers tend to be made up of darker, cooler colors. Not so here, and I love how Sylvie continues to rock the red leather jacket, and how the rushing waves in the background actually are part of the story itself. Again, we saved the best cover for last!