|Series: Shades of Hell #1||Rating: 3.25/5|
|Date of Publishing: July 3rd 2018||Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, horror|
|Format: Kindle||Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble|
|Number of pages: 280||Author’s website: https://alcy.leyva.weebly.com|
“Now she went by Ingrid. You believe that? Petunia to Innnnnngrid. How someone goes from the light, fluttery name of a flower to the sound a bear trap makes when someone drops a refrigerator on it is beyond me. Ingrid. CLANK. PLUNK.”
New York City has always been a big fat sack of stress for Amanda Grey. From turning herself into knots as she strives to evade rubbing ass cheeks with strangers on the train, to round-housing public bathroom door handles to stave off plague contaminations, Grey has always found the simple technique of avoidance best in dealing with NYC. What's always saved her--what's always served as her bastion from the City's bright lights and cat-calling construction workers--was the little one-bedroom apartment in Queens she's shared with her parents. Of course, that's all about to change. When her parents go on an extended vacation and leave Grey to her own devices, she quickly manages to screw everything up, finding herself broke, behind on rent, and facing eviction. That's how fast life in the city goes: One second, your biggest concern is rising Metrocard costs and avoiding eye contact with creepy looking children. The next, you're nearly murdered by a man infested with demons, one of which you've rented your bedroom to, and before you know it you've set into motion the biblical apocalypse prophesized in the Book of Revelations--literally. In one night, Grey goes from a woman concentrated on clamping down on her own personal demons to the woman responsible for recapturing the six Shades she's unleashed upon the city. To accomplish this, she must venture out into a society even more alien to her now than before--oh, and try to stay alive, too. She manages to survive by accepting the help of Barnem, a seraphim who just happens to reside in an upstairs apartment and also just so happens to be equally terrible at human interactions as she is. Oddly, the demon Grey now shares an apartment with also steps up to help her vanquish the Shades, though she can't be sure if it's out of roommate loyalty or a secret plot to enslave humankind. Probably the latter. Together the unlikely trio faces a bevy of social demons, from navigating political warfare, to breaking the curse of infomercials, and figuring out exactly how Grey becomes the leader of a cult, or two. For Amanda Grey, it becomes harder and harder to tell the difference between the ills of society and the influence of the Shades. She begins to notice that living with her social anxieties makes her more sensitive to the oddities around her, which, ironically, seems to make her the perfect person to deal with the world's mounting weirdness. As Grey comes to be part of a society that has accepted the strange ways we communicate with each other, she questions if the "social sanity" she felt excluded from her entire life ever really existed in the first place. With the capture of each Shade, Grey's world begins to open--from the possible love interest that just moved into her building, to re-establishing the failed relationship with her younger sister, Amanda quietly begins to notice that maybe an earth-shattering apocalypse.is exactly what her life needed. The only thing left to figure out is how to actually cope with the end of the world.
I received an ARC through Netgalley, so I’d like to thank Alcy Leyva and Smith Publicity/Black Spot Books for providing me a copy.
This book for me is somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars, and since I hate making decisions, I settled between the two with 3.25. What attracted to me to this book was the blurb. I expected an urban fantasy written in a sarcastic tone, lot of laugh along the way and an intriguing plot. And while it didn’t completely delivered what it promised, it made me think about a few things and didn’t let me escape the reality I was trying to escape from. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, just a huge cosmic joke on my expense at this point. I also hope that since it’s an ARC all the typos will be corrected by the time it gets published.
Amanda Grey lives in New York and does her best to avoid people and the outside world as much as possible. Until her parents go on a vacation and leave her to her own devices: thus she has no choice but prepare her own food, and face the reality of rent paying. On which her parents are weeks late. What does an antisocial girl do in this situation? Puts up a Craiglists ad looking for a roommate. Turns out this isn’t the most clever thing to do. She not only manages to end up living with a demon but also sets free a bunch of Shades who wreak all kind of havoc throughout New York City. Animal heads are being hung up on wires like lampions on a summer night, strange cultish groups appear, the Mayor’s brother who works as a Pirate Captain in a children’s TV show goes crazy and decides it’s time to “Make New York Nice Again”.
Not having any other chance she, her upper neighbour – who happens to be a Seraph – and the demon set out to fix the problem. If this wasn’t enough, Amanda’s little sister, Petunia shows up out of the blue after avoiding her family for years nursing her own little secrets, a cult serving the Darkness are bent on making her their goddess and the new guy in the building, Donaldson tries his hardest to raze Amanda’s walls to the ground. Which at one point in the story happens. Literally.
Amanda is a strong protagonist. For a while I wasn’t sure if I liked her or not. She is an annoying smartass with a sharp mind and even sharper tongue who’d like nothing more than being left alone finally, to battle with her own demons in peace. Then I realized she is like me in some ways and started to understand her. Readers probably won’t like her much, but under all the snark and hard shell she is vulnerable and hungry for love. She is also an unusual MC because you don’t often find books with a character battling with mental illnesses – depression, panic attacks, etc. She has enough on her plate already and absolutely doesn’t need any more shit on top of it. Not that she has any say in the matter. So she puts herself together and faces whatever that comes to her way.
The demon – D. – and the Seraph – Barnem – are also interesting characters. Leyva plays with stereotypes here making Barnem antisocial, cynic, grumpy who doesn’t really care about humanity all that much. D., on the other hand although practically forces his money on Amanda and so tricks her into accepting him as a roommate, saves Amanda’s life on more than one occasion. My favorite character, however, is Donaldson. The guy is loyal to a fault and pretty hard to intimidate or deceive with harsh words sounding like threats but actually being part of a defense mechanism built up by Amanda as to not let anyone close to herself. Their banters are pretty funny no less than Amanda’s and Barnem’s.
The characters, the story has the potential. So why the 3 stars? While this book is enjoyable in a this-is-some-seriously-weird-shit kind of way, you can’t help but wonder how much better this could be with some more editing. There are some inconsistencies, the writing is sometimes uneven and sometimes it’s not clear what happens. It takes time to wrap one’s mind around the Shades and how they actually work – this part needs a better/clearer explanation. It’s also hard to decide if this book wants to be funny/parodic or takes itself completely seriously and falls somewhere between the two – not funny enough but also can’t take it seriously either even though Amanda’s character is meant to represent this balance. The end is a bit rushed and probably too much things are crammed into this book. It’s like the author wanted to squeeze in as many sub plots as he could but it has the opposite effect as he aimed for.
The other issue with this book is the usage of acronyms like fyi (sic!) and TBD (which I have no idea what it stands for, to be decided maybe?) in dialogues. No one uses acronyms while talking – OK some acronyms are used that way, but FYI? Weird.
All in all, Then There Were Crows is a fast paced, enjoyable read – if you have a certain kind of humor and don’t mind some violence here and there. This is a rather dark, horroresque urban fantasy with unique characterisation and promising ideas. With some improvements here and there (editing, writing – see my complaints above) this series can grow into something good and worthy of attention all fans of horror, dark fantasy, urban fantasy and everyone in between who like their story with a good measure of snark and violence.