REVIEW: Daughter of Light and Shadows – Anna McKerrow

Daughter of Light and Shadows

Author: Anna McKerrow (website / twitter)

UK Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Contemporary fantasy, romance, erotica

Release Date: 16th October 2018

Buy: ebook | paperback

Faye Morgan – beautiful, independent and lonely – runs her family’s small shop of magical curiosities like her mother and grandmother before her. She longs for an escape, unaware of the dark power that flows through her veins…

When Faye casts a spell into the sea one cold morning, her call brings her to the attention of the wild and impulsive faerie king Finn Beatha. Finn pulls Faye into an intoxicating new world, both magical and treacherous… and as bewitching as Finn himself, who seems to command every part of her when he’s near.

As Faye’s passion for Finn grows, so does her fear that she might be there for some darker reason… and that she could be trapped in Faerie forever. Is there something in Faye’s past connecting her to this place, to Finn? And dare she find out more when every moment draws her further away from her old world?

This review is based on a NetGalley advanced copy. I received word from the publisher that the manuscript has been updated since this copy was issued, based on feedback received, to give more details about the male characters, the magic shop and more about Faye herself. I have not read the updated version, so I cannot say how different it is from the edition I read. However, you can currently pre-order the book for only 99p on Kindle, so you may find it worth a try for the bargain price.

I think I may have to accept that I am not a fan of fairy novels. I love stories about fairies and the traditional folk tales, but the only two places where I am happy with the way the story uses them are Ella Enchanted and The Dresden Files. I have read a few others and honestly been underwhelmed with the way it was dealt with. This book was no exception, but I also found the romance lacking here too, which was disappointing.

The novel reads as though it is three different novels, continually feeling like it is starting over with a different genre, and the pieces don’t tie together well. It’s jarring, and uncomfortable. The first third of the book is the introduction to Faye, and the casting of the love spell for her and her friends. We get a brief introduction to two of the male leads, Rav and Finn. Rav is set up to be perfect for Aisha – Aisha who is smart, and a bit of a hipster, and loves music, to Rav who is… smart, a bit of a hipster, and is planning a music festival. And then Finn appears, blonde, beautiful and mysterious, and has immediate, unstoppable chemistry with Faye. So far, so romcom, although I would note that we never meet any potential suitor for Annie, who appears to be taking on the role of ‘the only gay in the village’. At this stage, I think this is likely to be a traditional slow-burn, cute love story, although with a slightly tired love triangle angle because Rav clearly starts off into Faye where narratively he would make far more sense with Aisha, not least because Faye barely seems into him at all – there’s a lot of thinking about being into him, but it doesn’t feel convincing.

But then we get to part two. Barely have the two male characters been introduced, barely have any of the characters been developed beyond their introduction, never mind these two potential romantic leads, and Faye is having more sex than is… well, more than is necessary and probably more than is sanitary, given as the first sudden encounter is on a freezing Scottish beach in late April with no protection. The first is with Rav, who seems considerably more into her than she is into him, up to and including when he is giving her oral sex on the beach. This is only confirmed when, the next day, Faye finds her way into the faery realm and has a night of what we are led to believe is fairly acrobatic sex with Finn, who turns out to be the king of the Water Faeries.

And here’s where I start to get uncomfortable. Faye continually talks about how she feels drugged and drunk with Finn, but craves his presence and his touch. He sends her back home wearing a magic ring which apparently continues his influence over her and makes her act frankly even less sympathetically than she had been previously, and I hadn’t cared about her a huge amount to begin with. We get a brief multi-orgasm masturbation scene, and then she decides to waft her way into the world powered by faery afterglow. Despite this, and despite spending the whole time thinking of Finn, Faye gets territorial whenever Aisha gets close to Rav, and then decides that she wants to hook up with him, so we get… another sex scene. After which, Faye is swept back to the faery kingdom by Finn who is furious with her for betraying him, but then she ends up being coaxed into agreeing with whatever he says.

Finn is clearly manipulating Faye, clearly using his powers to control her actions and thoughts. She is not a willing participant in anything she does with him, and is incapable of giving informed consent. When his power wears off, she feels degraded, repulsed and violated, but she still wants him. He swears he will kill Rav if she goes near him again, and she believes him, but even though this has had the hallmarks of a controlling relationship from the moment she first set foot in the faery castle, and has got more than a little bit rapey (ok, a lot rapey), for some inexplicable reason Faye wants to be with Finn. Not just as a lover, though, as his equal. This is baffling to me – she doesn’t go back to the faery realm for a few weeks, not because she has been through something traumatic, but because she’s trying to work out how she can have a relationship with Finn on her terms.

Why on Earth would she want to? He’s controlling, aggressive, violent and has absolutely no regard for personal agency. Whilst the narrative has inadvertently skewed the chemistry strongly towards Finn rather than Rav, there is absolutely nothing about Finn which is appealing. The darker sides of the faery kingdom are evident to the reader from the first visit, Faye notices things but for some reason doesn’t twig, even outside of Finn’s influence, as to quite what they mean. Nor, for some reason, despite alleging to know plenty about faeries, does she seem aware that faeries are almost universally Bad News For Humans.

But this is where we get onto the third section of the book – Faye decides she wants to learn faery magic, as she has discovered she is half faery. She summons Finn’s sister, Glitonea, queen of the water faeries, and strikes a bargain to be taught magic, so she can face Finn as an equal and have sex with him without being controlled, although how she can bear the thought of ever sleeping with him again is beyond me. Now, in any other book, this would be something which happened fairly early on, and the plot would have been driven by Faye learning her powers and trying to tread the balance between connecting with her faery half whilst not losing her human half. That would have been a good book, allowed for a lot more exploration of faery magic, and discussed Faye’s feelings of being an outsider much more naturally.

Alas, that’s not the book we got.

After two visits with Glitonea, during which she learns to do precisely nothing, Faye’s forced into a stand-off with Finn after he takes Rav from her. Again, the chemistry with Rav is lacking so aside from human decency it’s unclear why we care, and given as she leaves lots of other humans in the faery kingdom to suffer, human decency is a questionable motivation.

After this, we are suddenly reminded of the music festival – that one Rav was planning – which is taking place in this little rural Scottish village on Midsummer. And Finn’s group of faeries, disguised as a rock group with obsessive groupies thanks to their faery thrall magic, are headlining. For me, the risks associated with this were pretty obvious early on. Faye appears to be maddeningly far more dense, and doesn’t act on this until literally the day of the event. In fact, she arrives barely in time for the encore, the final song, where things all kick off and things go to hell.

This book took me a long time to read, because I just… didn’t want to read it. I didn’t like any of the characters the fact that it felt like the beginnings of three different books spliced together made the pacing feel slow and wonky, because you never got to the interesting bit of the plot, and it didn’t seem to ever fully commit to how dark and sinister things could be, so the ending – to me at least – felt underwhelming. I was also a bit annoyed when it turned out to be the first in a series, and things weren’t resolved because honestly I don’t care enough to read any more of it, and it felt like hard work.

For me, I think the main issue came down to the structure and the identity of the book. Because it felt like I got the beginnings of three different books – a fantasy romcom, an erotic novel, and a fantasy adventure book – so I never got to fully bed into any of them, and the transition to each section felt jarring, and didn’t make sense given the previous sections. The characters didn’t feel developed because they seemed to change to fit each different section, contradicting themselves or behaving in ways that made no sense but which was needed for the new plot dynamic. This perhaps reads more like an early draft, where an author is still trying to establish where they want their story to go, and is awaiting a rewrite to bring it all more in line. I feel like if it had made more of the inherent consent issues as well, and embraced the darker side of the faery culture, there might have been more investment in the outcome, but it seemed like Faye was dense simply for the sake of furthering the plot, and that was frustrating to me as a reader.

It’s not a terrible book, but it wasn’t one I took much enjoyment from. The sex scenes were well-written, although Faye had a habit of thinking the words ‘moist’ and ‘slick’ about herself during sex, and kept talking about her ‘swelling bosom’ or ‘full breasts’ which were off-putting, and seemed odd because I am fairly certain no woman has ever thought that she was getting ‘moist’ or ‘slick’. Also, there is the major, unpleasant factor of the fairly obvious faery date rape which bothers me a lot and is never really addressed to my satisfaction.

It’s 99p at the moment, though, so you wouldn’t be losing much to see if it floats your boat.

Briefly:

  • I found the characters to be flat and underdeveloped, who don’t ever seem to make sense, whilst the book seems to restart about three times with new themes – magical romcom, faery erotica, fantasy adventure – which doesn’t make for a flowing narrative, or leave much to get your teeth into.
  • I had some real issues with the matters of consent in this, as one of the romantic leads essentially rapes the main character several times, but… that apparently doesn’t rule him out entirely as a romantic option? That makes me very uncomfortable and I find it unsatisfying, and it makes me question the main character’s judgement.
  • Additionally, it seems to take a while for anything to sink in for the main character, even if they are narratively obvious. Whilst dramatic irony does have a place, when the narrator is 3rd person, limited view, we are only seeing what Faye is seeing, so the fact that she can’t draw these conclusions from what she sees despite allegedly having more education on this subject than the reader, is extremely frustrating.
  • The smut was pretty good, aside from overuse of ‘moist’ and ‘slick’, but there were consent issues that couldn’t be ignored. And it would work better if it was peppered more evenly through the book rather than just slammed into a block of chapters in the middle. It’s like you pass through the smut zone halfway through the narrative and then out the other side.

Rating: 2/5 – I didn’t want to keep reading this, or care what happened to the characters.

7 thoughts on “REVIEW: Daughter of Light and Shadows – Anna McKerrow

  1. Bexa says:

    Even if you didn’t like the book very much, I found your review very enjoyable to read Claire. I’m not sure I would have the patience to finish a book where the characters were unlikable and inconsistent and the book didn’t flow very well. Although I suppose 99p isn’t bad if someone is just looking for some well-written sex scenes, ha ha! Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts, great review ❤ xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    Like

    • Claire says:

      Haha thank you! I’m at the stage now where I feel like if I start a book I have to finish it, because at least then I can get a review out of it so my time won’t have been entirely wasted.

      Like

  2. June says:

    Hi Claire, this is actually one of the first book review blogs I’ve seen haha. I really liked reading this – even if you didn’t like the book itself! I never even noticed that some authors can overuse certain words, haha~

    Junniku.com

    Like

    • Claire says:

      Thank you! I think possibly I noticed those particular words because know so many people find “moist” a very unpleasantness word, and I was finding “slick” very unpleasant so every time they were used it was like “ugh not again”.

      Like

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