Book Review : Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe

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Review of Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe 

Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe by Sanna Hines is an urban-fantasy mythology centered around the secret immortal descendants of the Tuatha dé Danann. The mythological aspects feel very authentic and the characters are diverse and realistically motivated. The antagonists of the story are a serious challenge for the heroes and danger is constant. The mythology and lore are more than a backdrop for this book, the conflict, need and desire lines all feed from out of the shared history of the ancient clans. Thwarted plots, lost power, and murdered ancestors all motivate the hatred the Formorians or Foe have for the Danann.

The story starts with Tessa a young twenty-something Danann who gets caught up in the plot when she goes to the aid of her nephew Cory. Events escalate with the kidnapping of Lia, Cory’s girlfriend, who is taken through a Sidhe portal. It soon becomes a quest to find Lia, and uncover the Formorian plot.

Shining Ones is a challenging book with many viewpoints where locations and events flip at a hectic pace. Just when I would get comfortable with one character the narrative would jaunt off to another. It’s clear that author Hines means for Tessa and Sam (Lia’s father) to be the primary protagonists. Their feelings and growing romance are well depicted.

The dialogue in this book is excellent and there’s just enough rhythm, cadence, and word choices to suggest the accents in use without being annoying. There is a huge amount of lore in these pages and thankfully, almost no narrative-stopping blocks of reader feeder. If I were to point to a weakness, I’d come down on the number of viewpoint switches. I would have appreciated some of that word space spent on transitions, orientation, and physical/emotional registers. Also, with so many viewpoint characters with similar looking names it was a chore to keep them sorted. I also felt that if antagonist viewpoints were going to be included that their presentation and character be more balanced.

With all the twists and turns there are number of surprises in this book and even though I am veteran reader I didn’t find the ending overly predictable. I was left wanting for context and a little too much was left to my imagination, but those are really quibbles.

Ratings: (1 – 5)

Execution: 3.5 – 4.0 – This writing itself is clean and lean without excess or pretention. Honestly, with all the names and other stuff being blasted at the reader, making it even more complex would have killed it. I did find the POV breaks inside the chapters to be jarring in some places. Settings tended to provide details without framing context. Descriptions leaned toward the expositive rather than narrative, and narration lapsed into omniscient at odd times. Despite the distancing, there was a fair amount of sensory detail, I only wished it were more specific sometimes and more character centric.

Setting/World-building: 4.5 – 5.0 – I wanted to give this a five. Stylized urban fantasy is either win or lose with me, one logistical error and the whole balancing act tends to go out the window. Here we have the immortal Dannan living among humans keeping their Talents secret. Right up front, I’m a sucker for this concept. I mean it’s just two steps from superhero secret identities, right? My disappointment is that all the characters are so nonchalant about the powers. We never seem to be in the viewpoint of someone who is impressed, freaked out, or whatever. Also, for me, when there are powers, I like to see them used in creative ways to advance past otherwise impossible plot obstacles. Not much memorable in that regard. I find that particularly poignant when one of the primary characters is a shape-shifter… that is a super-versatile ability.

Okay, forget the power deal. The setting, there is so much stuff: magic, curses, gates, gods, kitchen sinks… It’s great. My only quibble is perhaps there’s TOO much effort in trying to cram it in. Some of the side bits just seemed like excuses to smoosh in some more lore. I think it would have worked better for me more vividly described, with more CONTEXT. There’s a lot of puzzles in this and the number of characters who know obscure myth pushes the believability envelope. I would understand if there were ancients in the hero group… but all of them were relatively young. I’m quibbling, but this is a review.

Characters: 3.5 – By the middle of the book we have seven protagonists and six antagonists (and assorted flunkies). Tessa and Sam are handled well in terms of thoughts and internal context. The remainder of the cast is largely defined by their dialogue. I really could have used more tags and reminders how the various characters looked. As a reader, I don’t mind using my imagination, but gestures, ticks, and other character scene business can help differentiate characters.

On a special note, I found Tessa the shape-changer lacking self-esteem to be a head scratcher. I can think of a lot of hang-ups being able to look like anybody but that’s one paradox that needed better explanation.

Overall:  4.0 – If you’re in myth and mysticism, this book offers a lot. I always remind readers, to even FINISH a book is an accomplishment that few achieve. Any writer who braves the hostile waters of professional publishing is both brave and diligent. Obviously, a ton of research and effort went into creating this work, and I feel the author’s sincerity in these pages. The book leaves plenty of room for a sequel in the end, so my best wishes on Sanna Hines’ authorial success.

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