{Review} Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

{Review} Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

Note: I have made every attempt to write this review free from spoilage about the first book in the series. 

It was with both trepidation and excitement that I cracked open* Shadow Bound, the second book in Rachel Vincent’s Unbound urban fantasy series.

Excitement because I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series.

Trepidation because, well, I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series. 

You know how it goes: When a series starts out strong, it sets the bar high. This was doubly the case with Shadow Bound because the main characters in the second book differ from those in the first. I loved Liv and Cam in Blood Bound, their story was incredibly compelling, and Kori (one of Shadow Bound’s main characters) did not impress me in the first novel. She was and unlikeable. 

However, I enjoyed Shadow Bound even more than the first book in the compelling and creative Unbound series.

Taking place in world in which some humans are (un)lucky enough to possess highly-valued abilities and mob-like syndicates rule, Shadow Bound finds Kori Daniels, a shadow walker (basically, she can transport herself and people she’s touching via darkness), suffering the consequences of her role in the events of Blood Bound. Jake Tower, leader of one of the major synidcates, has deprived Kori of the darkness she craves and subjected her to terrible torture (it’s quite painful to read, even though nothing is described in detail—it’s just so harrowing).

Kori is finally freed from her dark, basement prison to recruit Ian Holt, whose skill enables him to create darknes and remain unaffiliated with any of the syndicates. This is Kori’s last chance to save her own life and protect her sister Kenley from a terrible fate at the hands of Tower’s men. Kori is is extremely damaged, but still motivated by the self-preservation necessary to protect her sister. She’s still the tough, surly, cursing character introduced in Blood Bound, and she’s hanging on by a thread, 

“Intact?” I grabbed the desk lamp and hurled it past his head and he flinched when is smashed against the wall at his back. “Do I sound intact? Did you miss the part where Jake tried to drive me insane with solitude and torture? Or maybe you missed the part where it fuckin’ worked? […]”

Ian has a secret reason for accidentally-on-purpose exposing his skill to the world—he wants to kill Kenley, the Tower syndicate’s best binder (a binder seals the skilled to the syndicates—this is a very important power—and killing a binder results in all of the oaths they bound being broken). The tension between Ian and Kori’s competing agendas is palpable from the start—and only grows as the two spend time together. 

Despite his ill intentions, Ian is a good guy at his core.

That’s what makes him such a compelling love interest for Kori. He’s loyal. He’s kind. He’s good-humored. 

In the dedication at the beginning of the book, Vincent says that her editor reminded her that, 

…shadows cannot exist without the sun. Kori needed balance. She needed Ian. 

The juxtaposition between foul-mouthed, angry Kori and even-tempered, good-natured Ian is what makes their journey together so emotionally satisfying. This particularly suits the narrative style (alternating first person point-of-view), as being back and forth in the two characters’ headspace is quite the emotional roller coaster.

The marked difference between the two characters does not equal a book about the good guy fixing the troubled woman, however. That’s not the story at all. Rather, Ian helps Kori find her own emotional strength and it’s that nuance that made me incredibly invested in them. As a result, I was rooting for them the entire book.

Also, Ian is pretty much a badass. 

I often struggle with appreciating the romances in urban fantasy novels, because they sometimes feel generic with all the ass-kicking going on. Yet, in both of the Unbound novels, the relationships have resonated as emotionally authentic and made sense for the characters and the story.

(Speaking of which, Liv and Cam—the main characters in Blood Bound—make an appearance in this installment in the series. Fortunately, it’s not the dreaded random pop-in of characters from a previous book. The pair are important to the events of Shadow Bound and I suspect we’ll see more of them in the final novel.) 

Additionally, this is a little thing, but it made me really happy—Shadow Bound features a non-white (half Irish, half African American) love interest. It seems to me that that’s a pretty rare occurance, one I’d like to see more often. You can’t tell as well in the digital image, but the cover also reflects that description of Ian fairly accurately. More of this, please. 

Kori and Ian’s story is a tough journey—Vincent throws obstacles in their path throughout Shadow Bound.

Even more so than in Blood Bound, the stakes are extremely high, with multiple lives at stake. I’ve written quite a bit off and on about how one of my reading deal-breakers is lack of consequences. It dawned on me when reading Shadow Bound, that one of the things that typifies Rachel Vincent’s books is that characters always have to face the consequences for their actions. Whether it’s Kaylee in Soul Screamers, Faythe in the Shifters series** or these newest characters in the Unbound world—Vincent makes her characters face the results of their decisions, and those results aren’t neat and tidy.

Shadow Bound is no different.

The last 70 or so pages are full of twists and turns, and I couldn’t reach the end quickly enough, as I wanted to know if Kori and Ian would be okay. With Shadow Bound, Rachel Vincent has laid the groundwork for Oath Bound*** (out next year) being absolutely crazy and kickass, and I cannot wait. 

Note:I would not recommend reading Shadow Bound if you haven’t first read Blood Bound. Most of the world-building for this series takes placein the first book, with Shadow Bound focusing on events that will likely result in some intense action in the final book in the series. You could read it as a stand-alone, but it would not be nearly as interesting without the context lent by Blood Bound. 

FNL Character Rating: Tyra Collette. Kori has both the physical and emotional strength of Tyra, as well as her fear of vulnerability.

Ian receives our first-ever Coach Eric Taylor rating. Oh. Hell. Yeah.

{Buy Shadow Bound at Amazon | BN | Book Depository}

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*Not a figure of speech—even though I prefer digital reading, this title was windowed. I would not have bought the paper copy and instead waited for the ebook if I hadn’t had a random BN gift card wasting away in my wallet. Windowing is one of the stupider things in publishing. Arg.

**Oh, Rachel Vincent, you and your wacky character name spellings. Kaylee, Kori, Faythe, Marc… the list goes on. Never change, all right? :)

**You know a book was good when, immediately upon finishing it, you start Googling for any tiny details about the next book in the series. I ended up combing through Rachel Vincent’s blog for any tiny clue about what’s going to happen in Oath Bound, to no avail.

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