[REVIEW] The Scent of Shadows – Vicki Pettersson

Vicki Pettersson
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.

3 responses to “[REVIEW] The Scent of Shadows – Vicki Pettersson

  1. I have to say I am right there with you on this one. My only negative comment would be about the horrible cover (and now I see the alt I don’t care for that either). In person it’s very difficult to see just who the author is thanks to the overwhelming layout, type and garish colors while the offset-embossing looks like a complete mistake, rather than having the intended shadow effect (I’m assuming that IS what they were going for). Even my husband asked who the author was as it sat there on the table (- he thought it was written by two people due to the yellow tpe which stands out more than anything else in person). I had this book for months before I picked it up because the cover looked corny (what is that demonic comedian-wanna-be thing behind her anyway?). It was only when I read about it again later and liked the idea of using the zodiac signs in a Vegas setting, among other things that I realized I already owned it. The cover still put me off, even between readings but the story and characters stayed with me so I kept coming back – I ended up reading every chapter after chapter 2 in the dark. That worked – and I finished it in a couple of nights.

    DON’T judge this book by it’s cover. Its’ s SO much more sophisticated than the vibe it gives off. The writing is far better than you’d think to find between covers like these!

  2. Oh yes – and I noticed somebody did a lot of tweaking on the second book cover – it’s obviously the same series but now it’s clear who the author is! The cover has a much improved layout with colors and fonts that work and as a result the artwork also does what it’s supposed to – show you a kick-ass heroine who overlaps both the light and the dark.

  3. The first one is the US cover; the second is the UK one. (We usually get the UK ones down here, as the UK buys “UK & Commonwealth rights”.) I prefer the US, even though it’s small. Too many author blurbs and not enough info about the book itself, but hey – I’m not in charge of marketing 😉

    Have a lovely day! 🙂

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