The Scent of Shadows (Signs of the Zodiac, Book 1)
HarperCollins Eos (US: 27th February 2007); HarperCollins Voyager (UK: 2nd June 2008)
Vicki Pettersson brings fresh ideas, deep psychology and Las Vegas’s underbelly in this flashy first volume in the Signs of the Zodiac series.
Since her almost-deadly assault about nine years ago, Joanna Archer has been tough and hard, with an empty façade that keeps even her nearest and dearest away. A blind date ends in violence and death, and Jo’s not just an innocent bystander. Turning twenty-five has awakened powers that have made her a target of the warring Zodiac factions, Light and Shadow. With a parent from each faction, Jo could go either way, and though she chooses to align with the Light, a traitor walks among the troop and exposes them all to the Shadow agents…including Jo’s father.
Having become disenchanted with the genre of late, Vicki Pettersson’s début enlivened my passion with much needed originality (the Tulpa!), vibrant settings and intriguing psychology in a thrilling tome her urban fantasy peers can only dream of writing. Those fed up with vampires, psychics, witches, fae and whatnot will rejoice that superheroes take the stage here. Though the Australian publisher is marketing it towards fans of the TV series Heroes, the Signs of the Zodiac books seem more appealing than the show could ever be. (I don’t watch Heroes, and don’t intend to.)
At the start of the book, the writing itself makes me truly appreciate this. The flashy turns of phrase and such lessen as the action progresses, but science enforces the magic, there’s deep character development, and it all comes together in a ripping yarn.
But what stands out is this could’ve been much worse, had the author and editor not been so cluey. With romance featuring early on, I feared this could’ve been about Jo and Ben Traina trying to have a relationship throughout all the life-and-death. But thankfully Vicki Pettersson and Diana Gill realised that for Jo to fully find herself she had to be alone. How many books in the genre would do that nowadays?
I highly recommend The Scent of Shadows, and I’m already onto Book 2. This is one series thriller fans should not miss.