Have I mentioned that I have a thing for the X-Men? Well, I do. So when I read that this book was about children with extraordinary abilities locked away in a government facility and being turned into super soldiers, I couldn’t wait to read it.
The basic premise goes like this: the government has created a secret facility to experiment with genetics and children, in order to create killing machines. Each kid has a different set of abilities and they are ruthlessly trained and tested. If they fail they are destroyed, if they succeed they are assigned to a team. Our hero, J.C., used to be one of those kids and now is head of a team and one of the scientists. When the book begins, he’s running away after trying to destroy the lab because he opposes the experiments. While he’s at it a voice in his head helps him scape, however, he gets caught, brought in to questioning and ultimately subjected to a mind wiping. Fortunately for him, the voice belongs to someone who can help him.
Amy has spent her life locked in a lab. She’s a powerful telepath who can’t survive outside, but because she’s so powerful, instead of killing her, the government wants to learn from her. And by learn I mean torture her in order to see what she’s capable of. She is the voice inside of J.C.’s head. When she realizes that he’s been caught, she helps him retain his memory. In turn, he helps her get out of the lab. However, being imprisoned is the least of her problems, since she’s linked to a serial killer that’s targeting members of the team and has marked her as her next victim. That’s how Amy and J.C. team up to find the killer and hopefully also battle the facility. Actually, they don’t fight the facility at all, that was my original assumption when I started the book but I was wrong, maybe this will be addressed in the next book (?).
The book started very strong. The concept was original, the story interesting and the characters likeable. I couldn’t put it down and even though it loses some steam halfway through and I had some issues with it, I’m glad I read it. In a genre saturated with vampires, angels and shifters, I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to find a PNR that has none.
The best part of the story is the setting. I think the idea of the government doing secret experiments to create super soldiers is interesting, and I like that it’s not a good place to be at. They are not a happy family working together to save the world. It’s not clear what their purpose is, but heroism is not it. Most of the characters are ambiguous and have done bad things, the hero is part of the people doing experiments and even though he rebels against it, he has done his share of wrongs. The execution, though, needs some work. Lots of loopholes, the main story is not about the experiment but about catching a killer, so think of it as a Romantic Suspense set against a Paranormal background. Nothing wrong with that, but by not focusing on one aspect alone the story suffers. The mystery/suspense part was poorly done. The killer is obvious, we’re supposed to believe is someone else, but even the clueless reader can guess that the main suspect is just a distraction. The romance was lacking, there’s no chemistry and I never quite got why they fell in love, I’m not even sure they really did. In turn, all of these things make the worldbuilding weak, something a story like this one can’t afford.
Amy was a character that needed some extra work, she felt incomplete, or rough around the edges. She can’t touch people, she’s been living in isolation her entire life, she’s been tortured and tested relentlessly, yet she has no real problem adapting to freedom and she came across as way to put together and sane for someone who’s been through so much. I thought her character was inconsistent because at first she is damaged, but she gets over it almost magically. There’s almost no time dedicated to her struggle and recovery. Then there’s the fact that she basically moves in with J.C. and no one sees anything wrong about it.
I also had issues with J.C. He’s supposed to be this jaded soldier tormented by what he’s done, and again, at first he went in the right direction but that part of his character was also abandoned in the middle of the story to make room for the murder mystery.
I think the story needed more pages to improve the character development. The idea is really good and some of the secondary characters were intriguing enough to make me want to read their story. I can see a lot of potential here, Ms. Reed has a great voice and she has created an original and compelling world. Hunting the Shadows has several flaws but I enjoyed it enough to look forward to the next installment. If you’re a fan of Paranormal Romance I think you will like this one, especially if you feel like taking a vacation away from too many werewolves.
Review by Brie
Amy has spent her life in isolation. Locked away in the Centre, a secret government facility where children with extraordinary abilities are raised as highly skilled fighters, she longs for a normal life. A life where being around people doesn't overload her sensitive telepathic mind. A life where she can't see through the eyes of a murderer as he hunts down his next victim...
J.C. Nikolaiev was a top researcher, but when his conscience got the better of him, he tried to destroy his work and free his subjects—and was imprisoned as a traitor. To save himself and prevent more people from dying, J.C. must catch the serial killer stalking the halls of the facility. But his only leads come from a woman whose thoughts have invaded his mind...
Finally out of the psych ward, Amy joins forces with J.C. to find the killer before he closes in on them. Can their growing attraction withstand the truths they uncover?
Carina Press. May 7, 2012.