Sunday, November 24, 2013

[Review] The Sharpest Blade (Shadow Reader #3) by Sandy Williams

Torn between two worlds.Torn between two lives.  McKenzie Lewis’s ability to read the shadows has put her—and …those she loves—in harm’s way again and again. The violence must end, but will the cost of peace be more devastating than anyone ever imagined?  After ten years of turmoil, the life McKenzie has always longed for may finally be within her grasp. No one is swinging a sword at her head or asking her to track the fae, and she finally has a regular—albeit boring—job. But when a ruthless enemy strikes against her friends, McKenzie abandons her attempt at normalcy and rushes back to the Realm.  With the fae she loves and the fae she’s tied to pulling her in different directions, McKenzie must uncover the truth behind the war and accept the painful sacrifices that must be made to end it. Armed with dangerous secrets and with powerful allies at her side, her actions will either rip the Realm apart—or save it.

**Slight spoilers, especially for the previous books in this series. **

I don't say this lightly.  I've thought long and hard.  After reading this series, I can honestly say that Aren can now join Terrible, Bones and Barrons in my Book Boyfriend Hall of Fame.  It's true.  Aren has to be one of my most favorite male heroes in urban fantasy and I am bereft that this is the last time we will see this handsome, cunning, roguish fae.

Aren.  I could go on about him for days.  What makes him so appealing is that he's an alpha male, but not too alpha; he's cocky, but not too cocky; he's sweet, but not too sweet.  He's the perfect balance of what I look for in a male main character.  He's the type that would sacrifice his own happiness and well-being for the good of others.  He would die for McKenzie if it came down to that.  He's also loyal to his roots and to the Realm.  He made a huge decision in this book that has dire consequences in an effort to secure peace in the Realm, and it proves just how selfless Aren is.

I'm addicted to his scent and his touch, to the way his arms encircle me, pulling me against him, but mostly, I'm just addicted to him.  He's a light in all this darkness.  He's strong and caring, and he's sacrificed so much.

McKenzie is a great heroine.  Although she has longed for a "normal" life outside of the Realm, she just can't seem to get away from the fae.  In the beginning of this book, she is living a mostly normal, human life.  And she is bored to tears in a dead end job, living in a subpar apartment with no real friends or family around her.  To top it off, she is constantly feeling Kyol's emotions.  Kyol tries to put a barrier up between him and McKenzie, but oftentimes that barrier slips.  McKenzie's thoughts are often on the Realm, Aren and her other fae friends.  I think that although McKenzie yearned for a "normal" life, the reality of it does not suit her.  Her idea of what a "normal" life entailed was better than actually living it.

I'm sick of people taking away my choices.  I'm not putting up with it anymore.

Kyol is a loyal, strong, and worthy man.  He loves McKenzie as much as he can, but will not force her into loving him based on their bond.  I think that Kyol fully understands that he destroyed their relationship when he refused to put McKenzie ahead of the Realm and his king.  I believe that will be his life's biggest regret.  But here's the kicker - when it comes down to choosing McKenzie's happiness or the well-being of the Realm, he chooses the Realm every.  Single.  Time.  Does it make him a bad guy?  Nope.  Kyol will always make what he believes to be the most noble choice.  He is a constant in McKenzie's life, and with their bond, he will always remain a part of her.

He'll always see his love for me as a weakness.  

I don't think there was ever a real choice for McKenzie in the Kyol-McKenzie-Aren love triangle.  Her choice was made long ago.  The story isn't about the men in her life and whom she chooses - it's about McKenzie becoming comfortable with herself and her self-acceptance.  McKenzie is a strong, kick ass heroine, willing to lay her life down for those she loves.  She is smart and loyal and refuses to give up on her friends, even when facing seemingly impossible odds.  She makes terribly difficult choices for the greater good, but refuses to put her feelings last.  McKenzie has too much self-respect for that.  She doesn't flip-flop between Kyol and Aren.  When things don't go her way, she doesn't give up.  Both men will always be tied to McKenzie; it's just a matter of whom she picks to be romantically involved with.

I meet his gaze, see the regret in his stormy eyes.  I've never felt so betrayed.

The reason I didn't give this amazing conclusion 5 stars was because of the abruptness of the ending.  An epilogue would have been a wonderful addition to this book.  Things are pretty much tied up by the end, but it just happened so quickly, I would have liked to read a bit more about these characters' lives after the conclusion of the action.  I would be first in line to buy a novella that tells us about what happenes to McKenzie, Aren and Kyol down the line.  I hate losing these characters.  Three books is just not enough.  Surely there are more stories to tell about the Realm!  

If you are a fan of well written, intricate plot lines, urban fantasy and paranormal romance, please, please, please - I beg you to pick up this series.  Sandy Williams is an author to keep an eye on - I expect big things from her in the future.  I love books about fae, and there just aren't enough good ones to keep me interested, but this one fits the bill.  Oh, and Ms. Richelle Mead -  THIS is how you end a UF/PNR about fae.  Take notes.  Well done, Sandy!


Naomi Lahn said...

My thoughts exactly. I love your review and I totally agree with you, I would have loved a big epilogue!

Btw, who's Terrible? Because I think I've heard of him but I can't remember him... I need to know ;p

Jamie said...

He's one of my most favorite male lead character EVAH! He's featured in Stacia Kane's amazing, outstanding, fantastic Downside Ghosts series. Thanks for the review <3!

Stephanie Huff said...

I can't wait to read this one!!! Since my husband usually works New Years Eve and this comes out that day, I'm not ashamed to say I think I've found my New Years Eve plans!

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