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Review of Shadowflesh

Vinspire Publishing, February 2013
Shawn Martin
Shadowflesh #1

Available February 28, 2013 from Vinspire Publishing

"The feeling was so complete, so enveloping, overtaking my entire existence. It was wrong. It was dangerous. It was intoxicating. And I didn't want it to go away.”

Shadowflesh is the debut novel from Shawn Martin and the first of a series that I predict will be a hit with readers, especially the young adult audience. With this book, Gothic romance meets the 21st century in a tale that's soulful, sweet, and kind of spooky.

Torn from her home and fighting bouts of suicidal depression, seventeen year old Aileen McCormick lands in the small coastal town of Redcliff, North Carolina. Her first day of school promises to be the worst day of her life - until she falls into the arms of Addison Wake. Addison's otherworldly charm and drop-dead gorgeous face leave Aileen breathless, but only for a moment. Grim and painful secrets lurk in his dark soul.

Addison Wake isn't exactly like other boys. Far from it. He's dead and has been for 300 years, locked in an ethereal prison by a lethal enchantress named Donelle. When she hungers, she blesses Addison's tortured spirit with moments of freedom, allowing him to roam the mortal world as Shadowflesh. But that dark blessing comes at a price. He must deliver the souls of five unsuspecting humans to Donelle.

When four dead bodies pop up in Redcliff, Aileen asks herself is her love for the mysterious boy unconditional? Is the love worth the risk? And will she be the next victim?

I loved this book. Sure, it helped that I kept picturing Alex Pettyfer as Addison, but I really enjoy Martin's style of writing, too. It's witty and holds just the right amount of sarcasm to be subtly funny. Best of all, it's laced with comments and tidbits that only a booknerd could appreciate. I giggled, I snickered, I high-fived the high school junior that lives in the back of my mind. It was a grand time, let me tell you.

Martin writes a a very convincing "voice" of a troubled, teenage girl. Aileen is broody, righteous, and hostile -- which some disingenuous readers may try to say is off-putting. But having been a seventeen-year old girl once upon a time, this is precisely how I was at that age, and I loved the authenticity:

Public displays, whether they were of affection, religion, or executions, made me uncomfortable.

I read this and thought, Holy shit, Shawn Martin read my diary! I had so many high school flashbacks while reading this, I wanted to hide. The book perfectly captures the angst, horror, and humor of high school. But more than that, this story reminded of what it was like to be young(er) and caught up in fresh attraction.

Cue the handsome leading male, Addison Wake. Addison is a very romantic figure -- powerful, gallant, mysterious. Who hasn't dreamed of falling for someone like that? He's a well-conceived Gothic hero that dominates every scene he's in. And yet, he doesn't overwhelm Aileen's character or her standing at the story's main protagonist. There's a natural parity between them that keeps the story balanced.

Besides Aileen and Addison, there's a colorful crew of characters that give this story breadth: an amusing little sister, a rather eccentric grandmother, and some delightful sidekicks, if you will. My personal favorite is Calvin, with his understated sexy-geek appeal. Very Joss-worthy is Calvin.

And then there's this goat . . . but you'll have to read it to find out about that.

Bringing it all together, we have vibrant characters, wit and sass, a classically romantic vibe . . . all this makes Shadowflesh a book worth reading. But what really makes this book stand out from others of its ilk is the intelligence behind the writing. The imagery is superb. Simple moments -- a lime green VW scooting past, Calvin removing his glasses, a guilt-inducing cupcake -- they come alive like high-def vignettes. Pages of story are conveyed in a single sentence. And that is the true mark of a successful story, if you ask me.

Shadowflesh comes out February 28, so don't miss it. There'll be five books in this series overall, and if the second book, Forget-Me-Not, is anything like the first, then you better believe I'll be following up.

This book was received courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

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