Monday, December 3, 2012

Medusa's Middle Book Syndrome!

Sweet Shadows (Sweet Venom)
It's hard enough being the ancestor of Medusa and her sisters, but being monster hunters and the source of a very vague prophecy that has you ruining the world is just too much. For Gretchen, Greer, and Grace, the prophecy is just the start of their problems in Tera Lynn Childs' Sweet Shadows.

Now that the three sisters, triplets separated at birth, have found one another, it seems as though nothing is normal about their lives. Even Gretchen, whose life trained as a huntress was far from "normal" to begin with, longs for the easy days of training and hunting in between occasionally going to school. Now the girls are embroiled in a life altering decision that they barely understand: the prophecy. As the Key Generation, they are going to be responsible for either opening the door from the abyss to the human world which will unleash all monsters upon humans or closing the door forever, which, as it turns out, isn't such a clear win/win. 

Without Medusa's sisters, who have guided them disguised as mortals for years, and the oracle to confide in, the girls are struggling to decide which direction is best and who to trust. This becomes incredibly more challenging when they learn one faction wants them dead to keep the portal from opening and one wants them to open the portal and then kill them to keep it opened. Feeling like there is no place to run and an impossible decision to make, the girls find themselves torn in different directions. Grace knows something is going on with her brother Thane and her usually rock-solid relationship with her parents is being threatened. Gretchen finally allows herself to start liking a boy only to watch him sucked into the abyss and chooses to go tumbling after him where she learns more about the "monsters" she has been fighting all these years. And Greer must take a long, hard look at her lifestyle and how tea socials and high society events are just not possible within the life as a hunter. But the girls all have one thing in common: they have no idea which end of the prophecy they should be on.

I really like this series and love Tera Lynn Childs, but this was definitely a "middle child" in the trilogy. I am not saying it wasn't a good book, because it was! The struggle for me was that the action was held over from Book 1 and all the conclusions seem to be waiting (im)patiently for book 3. In my opinion, a trilogy should have three separate components that can stand on their own yet still all come together as one cohesive unit. This book had too many ties to its younger and older sisters, leaving it torn and without a real firm purpose on its own. For instance, the whole book we suspect something really horrible is happening to Grace's brother. He is oddly absent and not keeping in touch, and when he does come back, he is clearly hiding something. When the three girls come back together and press on to take care of a legion of monsters, he wants to come with them, then the book is done. You are left with no explanation for what is going on with him and no conclusion, just a whole lot of questions left to hang for another year until the final book. It was pretty frustrating!

This middle child syndrome is rather new for Childs. All her previous series (Oh. My. Gods. and Fins) are connected and continuations of one story, but they are strong in and of themselves as well. While it might bug you to wait a whole year with where this book left off, I hope you don't choose NOT to read this series because of it. Instead, I would recommend waiting until the final book in the trilogy is out and then to read them all in tandem. It will solve any of these problems I had with this book and you will probably get much more out of the story. The story itself is really quite wonderful, and in particular, the ambiguity surrounding the "monsters" is a real-life circumstance people face all the time- what happens when you realize the "bad guy" isn't really bad at all? This is a great mythological tale with real-life practical applications that make this a stellar series. Even if the middle child has a couple of small flaws!

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