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Sep 17

Delia’s Shadow – Jaime Lee Moyer

About the Book

A dark, romantic fantasy set against the backdrop of San Francisco devastated by the Great Quake

It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.

And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.

336 pages (Hardcover)
Published on September 17, 2013
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

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A book based on a young, single woman who can see ghosts is nothing new. No, that’s an old plot trope that’s been rolled out a few times in urban fantasy. In fact, it’s a trope that is so easy for me to be tired of. So, why didn’t Delia’s Shadow ever enter my ‘Jaded Books Zone’? Well, honestly, Moyer keeps it interesting.

Time and place is incredibly important for authors who are striving to write unique books. Why do you think so many books focus on torn apart lands, political turmoil, instability and the like? It’s a unique conflict that keeps readers engaged. Moyer plays to this in a different way. Delia’s Shadow takes place in San Francisco in 1915. For those of you who know your history of the area, you’ll realize that in 1915, San Francisco was recovering from a brutal, terrible earthquake that nearly destroyed the city and claimed a lot of lives. Enter Delia, who spent a few years away in New York and was returning to help her friend, and foster sister plan her wedding.

Moyer drops in some very realistic, somber details of post-earthquake San Francisco for readers throughout the book. For example: Delia was out of town with her aforementioned friend during the earthquake, so she was saved, but her parents perished. Moyer quite frequently drops in information about how many of San Francisco’s residents had lost loved ones, whether they are parents, family members, or friends. It’s brings a very intimate and emotionally engaging angle to the area and time period. Furthermore, one of the servants in Delia’s house is an African American. While I don’t usually equate California with racism, Moyer shows that it did exist and it affected lives through this woman’s shocking story. It’s all very well done, and a wonderful way for Moyer to engage her reader in the time and location of Delia’s Shadow.

That being said, there are tropes in this book. For example, Delia is an attractive, young orphan. I’m not sure why so many urban fantasy books involve protagonists that have no parents, but they do, and this one is no exception. Delia herself is an unassuming young woman who finds a ghost attached to herself and is then forced into an impressive investigation, of which she holds the various keys to solve the riddle. Again, nothing new there. I’ve read about more protagonists than I care to admit that are unassuming, but end up being pivotal in a mystery that effects countless people. And, the romance. I won’t elaborate on it so I don’t give plot points away, suffice it to say that it’s not incredibly unique or surprising.

The two perspectives that Moyer uses to tell the story do add different, but an equally important light on the mystery as it unfolds. Without both perspectives working together, I’m not entirely sure the novel would have worked as well as it did. On the flip side, this is a narrative issue that many books with romantic elements fall into that really bothers me. One perspective is Delia’s, the other is a gentlemen’s. Every time a book tells the story from two perspectives like that, I almost automatically know what is going to unfold between the two characters. A huge mystery, and plenty of tension, is bled out of the story almost automatically.

Moyer keeps Delia’s Shadow fun, fast, and engaging, despite it’s predictable, tropey points. Her writing brings Delia to life. The secondary characters, especially the psychic Theodora, are a lot of fun to read about. Theodora adds a nice levity to the plot, despite her occasional infodumps. A quibble regarding the characters is how long and drawn out their own internal struggles can be. For example, both Delia and her romantic interest struggle with their mutual romantic interest for much of the novel. That sort of thing gets rather frustrating and makes me feel like this book is more of a falling-in-love story with a murder-mystery background than a murder-mystery with a dash of romantic interest, which I’m sure is what the author was going for. Many of these internal dilemmas the characters face can distract from the original focus of the book. Generally it’s obvious how these dilemmas will end up, so lets get to the point already.

Delia’s Shadow is dark, but not oppressively so. This book does involve murder, and Moyer does describe it, so if blood and gore turn you off, you might want to avoid this book. However, if you’re like me, and you read Joe Abercrombie, then you probably won’t even notice the gore in Delia’s Shadow.

Delia’s Shadow moves relentlessly toward a powerful, neatly tied, if predictable ending. This book is a lot of fun, but all of the tropes and predictability really suck any depth out of it. This is one of those rainy-day reads. It’s brain candy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is both a time and a place for brain candy. Delia’s Shadow is interesting brain candy. The time and place used were absolutely brilliant. The writing brings it all to life and keeps readers engaged. I just wish the author had strayed a little further from such a well-worn path.

 

3/5 stars

1 comment

  1. Bibliotropic

    Sounds like this could be good comfort reading for me. I’m a bit of a sucker for the time period, so that already caught my interest, and there are definitely times when I’m not looking for something heavy and inspiring and fantastically creative, so this might do the trick during one of those times.

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