Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Still Mad Shadows Inquiries Series Ended

As I take my time reading Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five, I decided now may be a good time to talk about two urban fantasy series that I’m still (after two years) upset have ended.  These were really short-lived series, I have to say.  Both unfairly, but fairly, extinguished before they could truly rise.  I say fairly in concerns to publishers, profits and popularity.  But unfair, nonetheless.  Personally, I found the two series were incredible, different, and refreshing from mainstays and overrated authors in the same genre.  I'm so fussy and picky about this genre, and have to admit that many veteran authors in urban fantasy have overstayed their welcome like foreign houseguest walking over tatami mats with their Nikes on.  And it sucks when new authors come in every year employing some of the failed mechanics of the veterans.  But like I said, these two authors/series were different.

The first series I want to write about is my favorite out of the two, and that’s Lyn Benedict’s Shadows Inquiries series.  The series ran from 2009-2012, spanning a meager four books before Ace cancelled it.  I'm not really clear what caused the cancellation, other than the normal suspicions of poor marketing mixed with poorer sales (underrated as ever).  However, I think that it all boiled down to the series star, Sylvie Lightner, and the astonishing realization that… well… readers didn't like her.  I’ve read several reviews and discussion board conversations where readers expressed how unlikable she was.  I tried to understand where this dislike was coming from.  However, in the end, I was still left wondering.  Was it because she wasn't your traditional kick-ass female lead?  Or was it because she did kick ass, and didn't whine about it?  Is it because she didn't spend the majority of her time trying to get in bed with vampires and werewolves (which weren't present in the series; Benedict went above and beyond those tired creatures)?  In turn, she actually worked her butt off solving cases without distraction.  Needless to say, I was surprised by the response readers took over Sylvia.  

I absolutely loved and adored Sylvie–mainly because she was the reversal to many of her "peers" in the genre.  She, truly, revived my faith in the urban fantasy genre.  She was hard, worthy of deconstruction, inventive, stanch, and loving all in one.  And if that wasn't enough, she had a cast of family and friends that balanced her edge as a PI specializing in magic, old gods, and the occult.  So I suppose she got love where it mattered.  Nevertheless, even as I write this, I'm getting upset at how nobody [readers] seemed to get her, whereas I thought she was great and deserved at least a fifth book.  Really, I identified with her spunk and willpower.  And I may be wrong for saying this, but maybe I believed in her because I'm a guy and am hardly in need of a strong romance element to keep me interested.  Which Lyn Benedict added to her series in a cool and judiciously agreeable manner.

So, enough pedestal-talk.  My job is to encourage you to try this series before it goes out of print or existence somewhere within the sea of kick-ass urban fantasy series gone bye-bye.  Where should I start then?  How about what Shadows Inquiries series is about?

We are introduced to PI Sylvie Lightner and Benedict's fantastic world-building in the first book, Sins & Shadows.  Taking place in an alternate version of modern day Miami (as most urban fantasy series do), Sylvie is a license private investigator who specializes in cases related to the supernatural and occult.  This would include cases consisting of reviving fallen gods, and burning demons out of possession.  While all this seems like a difficult and dangerous profession for a human, the truth is that Sylvie is a descendant of Lilith (more on who that is below).  This gives Sylvie a supernatural resistant to any type of dark magic, allowing her to go places, break spells, and face monsters outside of human restraint.  Additionally, she can kill the unkillable.  And Lilith, the bearer of demons/monsters and the first wife of Adam from the Bible’s Old Testament, makes her appearance throughout each of Sylvie’s cases.  Lilith's role becomes one that urges Sylvie to put aside her human morals and follow her natural, killer instincts.  Consequently, becoming the New Lilith, an immortal being.  

That is the conundrum Sylvie faces.  She straddles the line of acting on her budding bloodlust through the persuasion of Lilith and maintaining her humanity.  And it doesn't help that government corporations, such as the Internal Surveillance and Intelligence agency (ISI), has an eye on Sylvie and her activities in relation to their own agenda of stopping supernatural corruption among humans.  Therefore, the question remains: is Sylvie a threat to humans like the monsters she hunts?  As for the Magicus Mundi, an enigmatic place where the monsters and dark magic swim from to torment mankind; what would it take for them to stop Sylvie from killing them off?


While there are a few allies Sylvie can call on, the most reliable (or perhaps questionable) one happens to be her somewhat-lover and ISI agent, Agent Michael Demalion.  Along Sylvie’s journey comes her teenage sister, and former troublemaker, Zoe.  Sylvie’s assistant, Alex, is loyal to Sylvie at her best.  Then there are supernatural creatures, such as a Fury demon named Erinya, who kind-of-sort-of joins Sylvie in her own form of destructive loyalty.

I really want to re-read this series and do a review on each book after writing all this.  Also as I write this, I'm still convinced this short-lived series is better than even Kim Harrison’s Hollows series as of late.  A very unpopular opinion, I'm certain.  But hey... it is what it is.  Also, Sylvie can beat the hell out of Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake and her harem of emasculated beasties.  That's something I would pay good money to see.  

In any regard, maybe it’s for personal reasons, but I really believe Lyn Benedict’s Shadow Inquires series is superior to both urban fantasy veterans [Harrison and Hamilton] for a variety of reasons.  Even within its life span of four books, I should add.  Benedict gave Sylvie a diverse set of case-related troubles, and less soap opera and relationship melodrama.  In the first book she was retained to help a gay god retrieve his missing boyfriend–who by the way was in a really, really cool magical oubliette.  In the second book Sylvie took on a case of magic-induced burglaries sweeping Miami, which led her into crazed necromancers and ghosts.  Book three Sylvie runs into old sorcerers and Aztec gods gone mad.  And the fourth and final book dealt with government cover-ups and the supernatural world gone ballistic on humans.  There was always, always something new and fresh to explore.  Not just the repeated drudgery of vampire politics and weaning over the washboard abs of villains.  And if all else fails, Benedict did a damn good job of fleshing out her stories from start to finish.

BOOM!  I said it!  

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