Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Mass market paperback: 352 pages
Release date: July 31, 2012
Series: Charlie Madigan #4
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Jenn
Between life and death lies a chasm of pain beyond imagining…
Elysia may be a heavenly off-world destination, but beyond it, in the siren city of Fiallan, the Circe have punished Charlie Madigan’s partner, Hank, into a tortuous state between life and death. With all the proper legal channels cleared, Charlie heads to Elysia, not knowing what she’ll find, or if she’ll ever see the siren again . . . while at home, jinn crime boss Grigori Tennin has begun an all-out hunt for the divine being Ahkneri. Tennin’s tactics set off a chain reaction that puts Charlie in the crosshairs of the shadowy creature known as Death, and stirs Ahkneri from her long sleep—and if Vengeance wakes, Atlanta will never be the same.
SPOILER ALERT: I can’t talk about SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN without discussing major events from previous novels so don’t read this unless you’re caught up on the series. I will, however, keep this post spoiler-free for SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN since it’s brand new and I don’t want to ruin anything for you.
I have been madly in love with Charlie Madigan even since I first met her in THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. She lives in an alternate Atlanta, where scientists have discovered two parallel plains of existence, one a paradise (Elysia) and one that’s pretty hellish (Charbydon). The beings from these worlds have been visiting earth for millenia and are the inspiration behind most of the world’s myths. Since this discovery thirteen years ago, people from both worlds have moved to Earth and have been integrated into human society. Atlanta is one of the major off-world hubs, home to large populations from both planes. Charlie is a law enforcement agent with her partner Hank, a siren from Elysia who has been moving from work partner to something more. She’s also a single mom to her daughter Emma, who has gifts that include the ability to communicate mentally with her adopted hellhound Brim, and has a roommate in the shape of Rex, a Revenant or spirit who set up shop in Charlie’s ex-husband’s body. On top of all of this, she’s also got the DNA of the three noble races running through her blood, thanks to a wackadoodle experiment in THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, and she struggles to master her new powers and avoid Sachath, a shadow of death that is called every time Charlie uses her powers. It’s a stressful life, and one that got exponentially more intense when Hank got dragged back to the siren city of Fiallan at the end of the previous book, THE HOUR OF DUST AND ASHES, just as they were contemplating taking things in a more romantic direction.
In SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN, Charlie is on a mission to get Hank back. Even when told he’s dead, she won’t give up and she goes to Elysia with an unexpected ally. If you’ve read our interview with Kelly Gay, you’ll know who I’m talking about. (I won’t mention it here in case you want to be surprised. I know I was when I saw this character show up on the page.) It gives Charlie a chance to get to know this character a lot better, which I loved because I wasn’t all that fond of her (okay, small clue) when we’ve bumped into her before. After SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN, I’m really rooting for her and I think you will be, too.
This book also gives us a glimpse into Elysia, something we’ve never really had before. In THE HOUR OF DUST AND ASHES, we got to go to Charbydon and see what life is like there. Now, with SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN, we get to visit paradise…and learn that it’s got just as many dark secrets as Earth of Charbydon. Charlie is out of her element and facing her strongest enemies so the action is intense and the plot unfolds in a way that will have you desperate to know more.
One really neat thing about this book is that we get some scenes from Hank’s perspective. They’re not all cheery since he’s a prisoner and being tortured but it was very interesting to see a bit more of what makes him tick. Over the course of the series, Kelly Gay has slowly revealed bits and pieces of Hank’s past, culminating with him telling Charlie about being Malakim in THE HOUR OF DUST AND ASHES, and so it’s gratifying to get some more insight into his character, even if it is under atrocious circumstances.
As always, Kelly Gay has written a thrilling story that sucks you in from the first page of the prologue and spits you out at the end, emotionally exhausted. Her books have always been brilliant but I think she’s done a magnificent job with SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN. Charlie is pushed to her physical and emotional limits and I was right there with her the whole way. I don’t know if we’ll see more Charlie Madigan books (see the interview) but I really hope so. Kelly Gay is a master storyteller and I just can’t get enough!