55 points/100 (3 stars/5)
Alert: LGBT themes

Tony Foster used to be a street kid. Then he met Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry the VIII and vampire, and everything changed. Now he is a production assistant on a TV series about a vampire detective. Only, something is going on in the shadows. They’re moving, coming to life. 

This is yet another reread for me this year. I’ve read this before and at the time, I loved it. I loved it more than I did the Vicki Nelson series. What I used to love was the fact that Tony was a street kid, and by the end he has become more, something others would love to be. I loved Tony already from reading the Vicki Nelson series, and I overlooked a lot of things because I liked him so much.

My younger self must have overlooked a lot, because I just did not like this nearly as much this time around. The story was honestly hard to follow. I think if the reader started to read this and had no clue the Vicki Nelson series existed they would be completely and totally lost before the end of the first chapter. It doesn’t get better from there. Smoke and Shadows relies heavily on knowledge gained already before this series even starts. Not only that, the beginning is just plain confusing, even without that.

I’ve read this before, several times now, and I still have no real idea of what was going on. Time didn’t really help this confusion, either. Things kept happening and happening, and nothing really made sense and I had no clue why those things were happening, and nothing seemed to get resolved and.. I was so bored because what the heck did I just read? The story jumped around in the weirdest ways, and never really explained anything that was happening. There was also never any rest for the characters to figure things out, either. The entire book was “go go go we have to get to the end because there is something coming” and then we got to the end and I was just kind of lost by that point and was glad it was over.

Definitely the best part of Smoke and Shadows is Tony Foster. When first we saw him in Blood Price, he was a street kid doing what he could to survive. Over the course of the Vicki Nelson series, we saw him become more and more of an adult who is capable of solving his own problems. When last we saw him in Blood Debt, he was ready to strike out on his own. Well, now he has. He has found a life for himself, he is settled and happy. Henry is around a lot but…well, that is just Henry, he isn’t ready to let go even if Tony is. The silliest thing is that Tony has found his life in being a production assistant on a TV show featuring a vampire detective. LOL

Smoke and Shadows is about an evil wizard from another dimension/planet who has found out about Earth, and wants to take it over, too. There is Arra, who is from that same place and is running from her past. She refuses to help at all, because she has seen it all before and knows there is no winning. Eventually, Tony bullies her into helping anyway. I feel like this was an epic fantasy tale turned on its head and forced to become an urban fantasy story instead. And so little of it is properly explained I really was very confused.

It is disappointing how little I really enjoyed reading this, compared to how much I did in the past. Yet, this is why I have been rereading old series, to find out how things have changed for me over the years. We’ll see if the series gets better from here.