Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Book Review: Shadows by Paula Weston

It's been almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant.

It doesn't help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn. And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who's been appearing in 
Gaby's dreams, he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense.

Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth - and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly - who can she trust?

Paula Weston's debut paranormal YA novel Shadows is the first book I've read as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. I came across this book while browsing the reviews from last year's AWWChallenge and decided to give it a try - mainly because I was curious. I've never read any of this type of paranormal fiction before, but as I'm fascinated with angels I knew this subject matter would be of interest to me. Besides, this year I plan to read a lot of genres I haven't read before!

Weston is a great writer. Not only does she create strong, believable characters but she also manages to keep the story moving along at a rapid pace while effortlessly revealing more and more of Gaby's past. Weston's writing held my interest and kept me turning the pages long into the night. She does a wonderful job of dangling only strands of the truth without giving away all of Gaby's story in this book (Shadows is part one of a series). I am invested enough in Gaby's story to want to read the next book when it is released later this year, so in that respect Weston has written a very successful book.

Even though I wasn't overly familiar with paranormal fiction prior to reading Shadows, the subject matter is handled with expert care which allowed me to suspend disbelief and accept the presence of angels, demons and hellions. I'm a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, so I found it easy to imagine the supernatural world Weston creates here. This is also testament to Weston's writing and storytelling skill - not once did I lose my connection to her fictional world.

I loved the lead character Gaby because even though she's extraordinary, Weston has still made her a normal, ordinary girl that we can all relate to (even if we're not fighting hellions in our daily lives!) Gaby is capable and strong much like Katniss in The Hunger Games, and I find this wonderfully refreshing. To see a female being portrayed like this is especially important given that young girls will read this book. Gaby is a fictional character that is worthy of role model status.   

I also enjoyed the Australian setting because it was wonderful imagining angels and demons fighting it out on the beaches and in the mountain ranges of my home country! The Aussie humour was never far from the surface either which was enlightening given the seriousness of Gaby's situation. Weston's descriptions of her fictional surfer town Pandanus Beach were spot on and as I read I could picture any number of beachside towns in Australia. This made the 'reality' part of the novel much more grounded for me and gave me room to let my imagination run wild with all the supernatural stuff going on. :-)

I'm glad I chose to read Shadows because it really was a perfect introduction to this new genre for me. Shadows is the right mix of the supernatural and the real, and the story is exciting enough to hook you from the very first page. I look forward to reading the second book in the series and following more of Gaby's remarkable story. Paula Weston has a new fan! :-)    

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