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Review: Shadows by Paula Weston (AWW Challenge #8)

The trends in paranormal fiction have been moving on apace from the vampire standard. Werewolves and zombies have taken their turn as protagonists, and in the last few years angels have moved onto the scene. I haven’t really sought out any of the angelic paranormal fiction, partly because the one attempt I made was full of wafty, superior, rarified and, well, angelic characters that I found a bit dull. I wasn’t sure how the basic background was ever going to translate into textured and rather more human personalities, which I prefer.

Then Text Publishing sent me Paula Weston’s Shadows, the first book in the new Rephaim series, and I thought: Oh, this is how it works!

The story is narrated by Gaby, a young woman living in a Queensland beachside town, as she nurses her still tender wounds, a year after the terrible car accident that killed her twin brother.

The trouble is that Gaby isn’t quite what she thinks she is, and there are a lot of people who want to know what actually happened to her and her brother Jude. Well, I say people, but really, all of these visitors, who wish to visit varying degrees of agression on Gabe, are actually the Nephilim, the half-human, half-angel children of fallen angels. They call themselves the Rephaim now, and they are far from what one might think of as angelic.

One of the first on the scene is Rafa, a warrior who featured in Gaby’s recurring nightmares of fighting with demons. Only – are they dreams or memories? Is Rafa a friend or a foe? As those seeking Gaby and Jude start showing up in idyllic Pandanus Beach, the question of allegiances is shifting constantly, because Gaby-now doesn’t remember who she was, or what her alliances were then. She doen’t know who to trust, but then her very human friends get tangled up in these skirmishes and, like it or not, Gaby has to start doing something about it all. But who’s got her back, and will she ever remember who she was?

The story goes at a cracking pace from page one, and is full of fabulous, full-bodied characters like Rafa and Mags, Gaby’s best friend. There’s action, sexual tension, suspense and some hairy moments where Gaby is called upon to do things she can’t remember how to do. Some of the unanswered questions are frustrating, but there the reader shares Gaby’s  frustration, because she can’t work out who she was and what happened to her, let alone who to trust.

The Australian setting is distinctive without being overwhelming, and the writing flows smoothly (and with frequent wit) as it rockets along to the conclusion. This first part of the story is wrapped up, although obviously, as the first in a series, there are still a lot of things to learn when you read the last page.

In any case, if you’re a bit lary of angelfic, as I was, this is a great story with a rollicking pace and engaging characters, so if you’re going to try the genre, this is a good place to dip your feathers in the water.

Competition: The Girl Who Was on Fire

There were two writers who absolutely set me on fire in 2011. One of those was Suzanne Collins and her brilliant (and traumatising) trilogy The Hunger Games. The other was the fabulous Mary Borsellino, with The Devil’s Mixtape. Mary Borsellino sets me on fire every year, actually, although her work is much less widely known than Collins’s. (Her series The Wolf House has been rereleased, if you like your vampires and your punk rock simultaneously.)

Where these two wonderful little literary arsonists meet is in The Girl Who Was on Fire, a fabulous set of essays about themes and ideas in The Hunger Games books, including Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist, by Borsellino.

I reviewed these essays last year. As I said at the time:

“Everything in this book either brings elements I was aware of into sharp focus or reveals new themes and interpretations to me. With each essay, though, I responded with variations of “Yes! Exactly! YES!”

Now I have (courtesy of Mary Borsellino) two copies of the collection to give away, plus a copy of the first book in the trilogy.

The trick with a Hunger Games-related competition, of course, is to think of a competition that is engaging but not too difficult, but which doesn’t cheapen the themes and ideas which I find so moving and thought-provoking. So – no Hunger Games recipes, no suggestions for what your last meal would be, nothing as obvious as that.

Instead, I would love for people to write to me to tell me who your favourite character was (in any of teh three books) and why. Did you love or hate them? Did they move you? Did a character change the way you thought about something, open your eyes to a new idea, or did they inspire you to try something new (like archery, or baking?)

So that’s it.


Write and tell me in 300 words or less which character from The Hunger Games made the most impact on you and why.

Email your replies to narrelle@iwriter.com.au.


The top entry will receive the Movie Edition of The Girl Who Was on Fire, which contains extra essays.

The second best entry will receive teh standard edition of The Girl Who Was on Fire.

The third best entry will get a copy of The Hunger Games


Conditions of entry:

It is a condition of entry that I may use your answer or part thereof (quoting you) in my blog, which will be online indefinitely. I’m happy to attach an alias to any quotes, but you need to let me know both your real name and preferred alias in your entry.

  • The competition will be open for two weeks, from Wednesday 4th July to Wednesday 18th July 2012.
  • I will select the winning entry that week and post the result, along with extracts from all entries, on Monday 23rd July 2012.