Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thoughts: Shadow Game

Shadow Game

by Christine Feehan
Book 1 of GhostWalkers series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

This review has been slightly edited and polished before this re-posting.


**Some of the thoughts in this review may give away certain twist points of the book.**

The story concept was what had gotten my attention in the first place--that, and I’d seen a lot of praise for Christine Feehan via reviews in the reading community. Unfortunately, what seemed to work for everyone else in Ms. Feehan’s books didn’t seem to work well for me in Shadow Game; which is a sore disappointment because I was looking forward to diving into this long-running paranormal series about a psychically enhanced elite of Military Special Forces.

I figured there would be a lot of potential and a lot of good stories you could dabble with using that premise.

Unfortunately, my biggest take away from Shadow Game was how Lily Whitney and Ryland Miller are so meant to be that we need to be subject to flowery prose and tacky dialogue for 80% of the book, and also how Lily has very “generous breasts” (what does that even mean?)--there are repetitive conversations about their romance and how much they love each other and all the detail about how they're lusting after each other.

The following things are apparently true about this romance (and this entire book), on repeat:
  • "The ground moved" when Lily and Ryland met for the first time--at least something otherworldly and solely "meant to be" happened.  Never mind that Lily is the scientist looking in and Ryland was being caged like an animal.  I might have rolled my eyes.
  • Lily and Ryland cannot stop thinking about each other for 24 hour of each and every day because it was love at first sight and they were "meant to be together."  I might have snorted in exasperation.
  • Lily and Ryland just know that they were "meant to be together forever" at first sight.  Again, I might have rolled my eyes a little bit.
  • The lust is thick with this couple--Lily and Ryland cannot stop thinking about what it would be like to get down and dirty with each other... y'know, even though Lily is supposedly an innocent virgin and has never thought about anything other than her scientific research in her entire life.  Cue standard category romance cliché... with an eye roll, maybe.
  • Lily has very feminine curves.  And she has very generous breasts.
  • Did I mention that Lily Whitney has very "generous breasts?"
  • Because I'm pretty sure that we haven't quite established twenty times that Lily has very generous breasts.
  • Since she so adamantly believes that she's got a plain-looking body that no man could ever love.  But she still admits to her generous breasts.

You know, it’s enough to mention it once--that Lily Whitney has a bit of a cynical complex and is extremely modest about her looks despite the fact that she admits to having more feminine curves (wide hips and big boobs), even if she doesn’t look like a supermodel. I can handle her being humble about her own physical appearance and being cynical about men falling for her--this is par for romances anyway.

But I don’t need to be reminded time and time again that she has very “generous breasts.” These same two words just keep popping up: when she’s putting her clothes on, when she’s examining her own body, when she’s doing the horizontal with Captain Miller, when she’s sleeping in the nude, when she’s covering her body with a lab coat, when Ryland is feeling her up… Apparently it’s extremely important to the author that her readers know and understand that Lily has very “generous breasts”.

At least a different description for big boobs would have been appreciated.  Maybe.

Shadow Game was all about the romance and the sex. The entire psychic military forces and unethical human experimentation conflict got overshadowed. And the writing style was very much “Tell” instead of “Show.” I felt like the author wanted us to understand exactly what point she was trying to hammer home about her characters and it was a little annoying.


The Story:
Dr. Peter Whitney has been conducting experiments on volunteer military personnel to create an elite force of silent fighting machines, the strongest group of soldiers anyone has ever seen. Captain Ryland Miller, in an effort to help with this research that is supposed to help their country, volunteeers himself and some of his men to enhance psychic abilities that they may already naturally have.

But even before Dr. Whitney dies, Captain Miller notices that something strange and much more sinister is happening with the experiment and his men. At least three of the soldiers have died as a probable side effect of the experiments, and no matter what Ryland says, no one is doing anything to help them.

Lily Whitney is brought onboard the project by her father, but not long afterward, telepathically witnesses her father’s murder. Before he dies, Peter Whitney warns her to be careful--that someone is messing around with his project, that the soldier’s lives are in danger, and that she needs to “find the others” and undo what he did that was wrong.

Not long after that, Lily discovers that she had been part of a similar project her father conducted years ago, as a child bought by him who showed signs of natural psychic ability. And along with her, there were several other little girls who had also been a part of Dr. Whitney’s experiments to enhance psychic abilities. And now these girls are scattered throughout the country because Peter Whitney couldn’t deal with the terrible consequences of his careless experiments.

So basically Lily must help the soldiers learn how to use their abilities and shield against excess noise and she must find the other girls and help them as well.

Some of My Thoughts:
As I stated, the premise to this book was an intriguing one. And when I found out about the other girls and the psychic enhancements Lily had been a part of when she was a child, I got a little excited. It would be interesting to read about our military men, also dubbed the GhostWalkers, go in search of the rest of the girls while fighting crime or going on military missions. I was thinking, “Ooh, there are others out there, like Lily, with psychic enchancements who had been trained as a child.”

That sounds even more interesting than a simple psi-ops story with military men being the psychically enchanced GhostWalkers. It doesn’t hurt to add some girl power to these stories.

But if the rest of the books are going to be anything like Shadow Game... I don’t know how much disappointment I can take. I kept waiting for the book to start bringing up other plot points and connecting all the dots, but Shadow Game was determined to be all about the “Lily Whitney and Ryland Miller” romance that moves mountains and shatters ground and has mind-blowing sex.

And the romance wasn’t even all that inspiring. They meet, they develop instalove that will live on forever and ever, all time eternal.  And that is all.

And Lily is the typical innocent virgin who has never been with a man before and is a Mother Theresa type. Ryland Miller is the typical alpha that I hate reading about (yes, there are alpha males I like reading about and Captain Miller does not meet the requirements). For one thing, he comes off as kind of an asshole; he likes to manhandle, he likes to get possessive and territorial, and the next time a man tells a woman to quit her day job because she’s a woman can meet my fist, even if it IS for her safety and even if she CAN live off of the inheritance her father left for her.

On top of that, I think he might have a problem with listening to what people say, because he gets all angry and upset listening to Lily go on about her father’s experiments before he even actually hears what she’s trying to tell him. He jumps to conclusions too quickly and really just needs to take a chill pill and calm the fuck down.

The most exciting parts of the book were when the group starts planning their escape from the research lab facilities and whenever there was talk about Peter Whitney’s experiments.. I was hopeful that things would start getting relevant and exciting when something other than romance and sex happened… but then Lily and Ryland get together again and we continue the romance route from there.

And every few random scenes we’d bring up the experiments or the conspiracies or something else that was non-romance related. But those are sparse and far and few and ultimately veer back into the romance anyway.

If there was a bit more tactful humor and more likable characters, maybe I’d be more inclined to get into the next book, just to see if things pick up a little bit better. A first book in a series is sometimes a little shaky; maybe the author is testing new ground and hasn’t gotten her ideas solidly built yet.

But the characters were merely “meh” and so I made the decision to set this series aside and come back to it some other time.

Final Thoughts: With an excellently intriguing idea, I had really hoped for more from this book than simply a romance based on a paranormal premise. GhostWalkers has a lot of potential for some really great story lines, being a long-running series and all. And with eleven installments, I’m sure it managed to find some footing somewhere and I’m sure there are plenty of people who are in love with the series.

Unfortunately, while the book wasn't completely terrible, I’m just not sure it’s the right book for me. I can only wonder about the rest of the series and whether or not it could be right for me some other time.


This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in March 2015.

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