The Scent of Shadows By Vicki Pettersson

From  When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.

By rights, she should be dead.

Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.

But the nightmare is just beginning-for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .

Okay, that description is not good.  Let me try to do better with some mild, but necessary spoilers.  Joanna Archer: twenty-something, photographer, martial arts expert, survivor of a brutal attack, victim of a mother’s abandonment, and daughter of uber rich casino owner Xavier Archer…or is she?  For years since her attack Joanna has been hiding behind her camera lens, not letting anyone close, just existing.  Her beautiful, successful,   sister Olivia convinces Joanna to go on a blind date…that will eventually end life as she knows it.  Not that she had much of a life to speak of.  Ajax, the Shadow and super creepy blind date, recognizes something special inside of Joanna and immediately tries to kidnap her.  Joanna is having no part of this and with the help of her long-lost love Ben the cop, she escapes Ajax.  Ben and Joanna tragically parted ways after her attack when they were both teens and didn’t know how to deal.  Seeing each other again brings back all of those lost feelings, but Warren of the Vegas Zodiac troop has other plans for Joanna.  Warren, like Ajax, treats Joanna like she is something different.  He is the de facto leader of the Zodiac, basically the good guy super-heros that have been losing  members at the hands of the Shadows.  Before long Joanna learns not only is she different but thanks to her mom and real dad, she is extraordinary.  Unfortunately Ajax and the leader of the Shadows, the Tulpa, cannot allow Joanna to become a threat.  Their attacks result in tragedy and force Joanna to abandon the world she knows and assume an entirely new identity.  After joining the other Zodiac agents, Joanna must help them fight to regain control of Vegas from the Shadows, ensure light wins over darkness, and confront the past she never really recovered from. 

The Good:  Thank God! A heroine I can get into!  I have been in such a heroine rut lately! Too many personality-less lady Cops/Detectives had me seriously thinking about taking a break from Urban Fantasy, but then Joanna Archer came along and warmed my heart with her scathing sarcasm and unemployed reluctant heiressness…kinda the anti-Paris Hilton.  Joanna has it rough in this book though, terrible things keep happening to her, and I found myself really getting pissed about it.  But then she springs into action and kicks so much ass, I just really fell in love with her.  Actually, several of the characters, especially the other star signs of the Zodiac, were a breath of fresh air for me as I didn’t get that feeling that I knew exactly what they were about after their first line of dialogue.  And I absolutely love it when the bad guy is revealed and I didn’t see it coming AT ALL.  So awesome.  I admit, I loved the whole super-heroish group based on signs of the zodiac concept, it was fresh and original, but there were parts that I didn’t really get.  Which leads me to…

The Bad:  So there is this group of super-heroes, right? And they are all affiliated with a star sign?  So if hottie Zodiac Hunter is a (fire sign) Aries, then he has neat ‘flame-on’ powers and an affinity for rams and stuff? No? Okay then.  So what are their powers and how do they relate to the signs?  Oh, you aren’t going to explain that to me? Oh. Okay.  Will I get to see these powers?  No? Just weapons? Oh. Humph. This was my basic thought process while reading Scent of Shadows.  I had so many questions about what exactly makes these people humans++ but the details were vague and hard to follow.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed spending so much time watching Joanna’s life unfold, but I was SO ready for her to blast people with magical arrows and such after all that build up. I have no doubt we will learn more details on what the Zodiac and the Shadows can actually do in the next books, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too  much…I was just ready to see some ass-kicking of the magical variety!

The Bumpin Uglies:  I have got to get away from these books that have incredibly steamy sex scenes up front and then leave us high and dry for the rest!  Teases! All of them!  Joanna is way too fiery to not be seeing some serious action! Poor thing gets crapped on the entire book and only has a few hours of intimacy with her high school sweetheart. But towards the end of the book, a nice little love triangle (I do enjoy a love triangle, have I mentioned?) is set up between Joanna, sweet cutie Ben, and SUPREME hotness Hunter.  Too bad I can’t convince myself that we will have a m/m/f situation on our hands in book 2.  Since this is UF, I know better.  Sigh…A girl can dream though. *wink* Oh and I would like to file a complaint with the author that not once did she exploit the pick up line hall-of-famer: “Soooo, what’s your sign?”  Missed opportunity for cheesy glory.  Unforgivable. 

Rating: 8.5


Favorite Joanna quote:  [Joanna hits some security guard]…he rebounded quickly and snapped [his head] back to level me with a look of pure hatred.  “Bitch!”

He still didn’t hit me though.

“I’m a bitch?” I asked innocently. 

“Fucking bitch,” he snarled.

I smiled sweetly.  “Then why are you the one who just got bitch-slapped?”

Disclaimerlicious: I have no idea what that gargoylesque thing on the cover is supposed to be, so don’t be expecting either gargoyles or demons.  This is a super-hero tale.