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Title & Author: Human: A Shadow Empires Book, S. M. Carrière

Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy/Paranormal, September 30, 2015

Book Description: “At the behest of the vampiric Shadow Council, Aleksandar Svetoslav, Prince of his House, moves to America to re-establish their foothold there. It was a territory lost when opportunistic vampire hunters laid waste to the hedonistic House Üstrel. He did not expect to find the assets of House Üstrel in such shambles. Nor did he expect that this tedious mission would lead to the beautiful police officer Alicia Wilde, who resurrects feelings in him that he had long thought dead. He certainly did not anticipate her partner, Detective Stephen Brody, who not only knows what Aleksandar is but has vowed revenge on all his kind. Things spiral quickly out of control as Aleksandar is drawn into a cat and mouse game with a deranged kidnapper targeting those closest to him. Betrayal draws Aleksandar and Detective Brody together in a frantic battle to save Alicia and the city from a true monster.”

First Line: Aleksandar Zograf stared numbly down at his bloody hands.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

I had a tough time deciding on a rating for this one. I loved a lot of it. The Slavic background of the vampires intrigued me (for some reason, not a culture that shows up in my books). The author doesn’t shy from themes of love that are outside the mainstream. Definitely a sense of history and culture in it. The world was well built. So, what gave me a hard time, you might be wondering.

Craft issues. I know, I know, there are no rules to writing, but there is structure. And while the foundations of this story were solid, a couple of issues shook the ground it stood on. Two main things:

Number One: When action was happening, it was magical. Gripping. Pages flew by!…But when it wasn’t, things tended to sag. I think this may have just been an issue of starting a scene too early, not trimming enough in revision, or not including enough tension throughout it. This isn’t to say that I need action in every single moment of a story, but tension, absolutely.

Number Two (the major one): At its heart, this was Aleksandar and Alicia’s story, but other secondary characters kept popping in with their POV in every scene. Head hopping galore. This continually interrupted my reading experience. Why so many others kept cluttering up the stage, I don’t know. Every time they showed up with their outside perspectives, I muttered, “Don’t care about you. Get out of the way.” To the point that my husband started to wonder if I was developing a verbal twitch. If these others could somehow be folded into Aleksandar and Alicia’s POV, it would totally resolve the issue and make me feel even more connected to them. Whenever things were told exclusively from the perspective of those two, the read became amazing. One POV per scene is always, in my opinion, the best way to go. More than one, or two, or three, in a single scene felt fractious and disorienting.

The Magical: Totally sucker punched by several major events that happened to the characters. Unexpected. Raw. I ate them up because, you know, I enjoy the suffering of fictional characters. That fire. Woah.

The Mundane: Head hopping. And head hopping. Did I mention head hopping?

Summary of Thoughts: Currently the book is $9.99 on the Kindle. There is a lot to love about this story. The main characters are likable. I love the eastern European influence, something I don’t often see and would like to see more of. The story has nice twists and tragedy, but this goodness is muddled by craft issues. That constantly shifting POV drove me nuts, sections of info dumping and scenes without enough going on made things drag. And YET, I found myself thinking about Aleksandar and Alicia after I finished the book. A rare thing.

3 Star Rating

Many thanks to author S. M. Carrière for providing a copy of the book to review.

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