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Dark Vow by Shona Husk
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There is so much to like about DARK VOW. The writing is simple and direct, short sentences, raw emotions, perfectly suited to a fantasy world on the cusp of industrialization. The book is divided into ten parts, each named after one of the ten Lords, all of them simple archetypes – the Smith, the Miner, the Hunter – who are just present enough to make anything seem possible.

The heroine, Jaines, is a gifted Smith. Trades are strictly controlled, open only to men, so Jaines works as an apprentice to her husband Lance. One day, while Lance is away on business, an Arcane (magic-wielding) Bounty Hunter commissions Jaines to make a special gun. Jaines would rather keep her distance from anything Arcane, but the Bounty Hunter offers a lot of gold.

She makes the gun. The Bounty Hunter pays her. And the next day, he comes back to kill her husband with it.

At Lance’s funeral, Jaines vows to find and kill the Bounty Hunter – an impossible task, since the only way to kill a trained Bounty Hunter is by hanging. But with no work and no family, vengeance is the only thing keeping Jaines going. Her pursuit leads her to Obsidian, who helps her along the way.

Here’s the problem: Jaines was happily married to Lance for eight years. She meets Obsidian less than a month after her husband’s funeral. Within a few weeks, they’re in love. The romance is shoehorned into this excellent fantasy story at an unnatural pace and as much as I wanted to buy it, I just couldn’t.

Jaines and Obsidian have chemistry, and I really enjoyed watching them get to know one another, but they don’t meet until almost halfway through the novel. If Shona Husk had been able to stretch out their romance over a couple of books in a series, or maybe just a much longer book, it would have worked. But they go from strangers to committed couple at a ridiculous pace, despite the fact that up until Jaines meets Obsidian she’s overflowing with deep grief.

There are a couple of interesting twists at the end that I thought would have made great turning points from which to embark on another leg of the story. So it’s not just the romance which is rushed; I wanted to know more about what happened AFTER Jaines finally finds the Bounty Hunter, how she copes with the discoveries she makes about herself and how she and Obsidian situate themselves in the world, given their changing circumstances.

These are serious problems, but I enjoyed reading DARK VOW anyhow. It’s like stroking your hand down the sleeve of a cashmere sweater; you can feel the quality, and the bones of this book are so good. I can’t wait to see what else Shona Husk writes.
( )
  MlleEhreen | Sep 20, 2013 |
There is so much to like about DARK VOW. The writing is simple and direct, short sentences, raw emotions, perfectly suited to a fantasy world on the cusp of industrialization. The book is divided into ten parts, each named after one of the ten Lords, all of them simple archetypes – the Smith, the Miner, the Hunter – who are just present enough to make anything seem possible.

The heroine, Jaines, is a gifted Smith. Trades are strictly controlled, open only to men, so Jaines works as an apprentice to her husband Lance. One day, while Lance is away on business, an Arcane (magic-wielding) Bounty Hunter commissions Jaines to make a special gun. Jaines would rather keep her distance from anything Arcane, but the Bounty Hunter offers a lot of gold.

She makes the gun. The Bounty Hunter pays her. And the next day, he comes back to kill her husband with it.

At Lance’s funeral, Jaines vows to find and kill the Bounty Hunter – an impossible task, since the only way to kill a trained Bounty Hunter is by hanging. But with no work and no family, vengeance is the only thing keeping Jaines going. Her pursuit leads her to Obsidian, who helps her along the way.

Here’s the problem: Jaines was happily married to Lance for eight years. She meets Obsidian less than a month after her husband’s funeral. Within a few weeks, they’re in love. The romance is shoehorned into this excellent fantasy story at an unnatural pace and as much as I wanted to buy it, I just couldn’t.

Jaines and Obsidian have chemistry, and I really enjoyed watching them get to know one another, but they don’t meet until almost halfway through the novel. If Shona Husk had been able to stretch out their romance over a couple of books in a series, or maybe just a much longer book, it would have worked. But they go from strangers to committed couple at a ridiculous pace, despite the fact that up until Jaines meets Obsidian she’s overflowing with deep grief.

There are a couple of interesting twists at the end that I thought would have made great turning points from which to embark on another leg of the story. So it’s not just the romance which is rushed; I wanted to know more about what happened AFTER Jaines finally finds the Bounty Hunter, how she copes with the discoveries she makes about herself and how she and Obsidian situate themselves in the world, given their changing circumstances.

These are serious problems, but I enjoyed reading DARK VOW anyhow. It’s like stroking your hand down the sleeve of a cashmere sweater; you can feel the quality, and the bones of this book are so good. I can’t wait to see what else Shona Husk writes.
( )
  MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I really liked the premise of this book for one simple reason, it's about someone who was out seeking to get revenge and ends up having to decide if revenge is worth getting.

Jaines is a really interesting and intriguing character for a lot of reasons. Her husband and her worked as Smiths in the book and although warned by her husband that working for Arcane's is a bad idea she does it anyway. This one decision leaves her plagued by guilt, because she made the weapon used to kill the man she loved. I think the guilt she had about the role she played in her husbands death to be the driving factor in her quest to get justice. It's really interesting to watch the story unfold. In addition to that it was easy to really feel for Jaines early on in the book. I felt like I had a good grasp on who Jaines was as a character so it was easy to both like her as well as connect with her.

The world building and concepts introduced throughout this novel are very interesting and unique. I really liked the way she separated people through their work. Every person has a skill/trade and that is essentially their identity. Unfortunately women don't get to chose, they just take on their husbands skill. This system also helps to explain the way Jaines is as a person. Another unique concept was the concept of Obsidian turning into stone. Obsidian used to be Bounty Hunter, but now he is the one being hunted. He has his magic to aid him but using it now results in turning himself slowly into stone. This definitely makes for an interesting plot development, as Obsidian must think before he acts.

The one big problem I had with the book was that it felt rushed. This book was on the short side at only 65,000 words and this is a problem I often run into when reading a book of this length. There just isn't enough time to let things develop organically and often times the book reads as rushed. I don't feel that the plot was really rushed, but rather that the relationship between Jaines and Obsidian was. From early on in the book you know Jaines loved her husband and she was devastated by his death, after all it is the event that causes the entire book to take place. But in a very short period of time after his death she meets and falls in love with Obsidian. This whole relationship did not feel organic and in a lot of ways felt like it was pushed upon them. I think there relationship could have worked or read as an organic progression if the book had been longer, but alas it wasn't.

Overall though this was a good book. I enjoyed the writing, it was easy to understand, I was seldom confused, and I really did like the plot. I would recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a short but enjoyable book to read. ( )
  HomeLoveBooks | Jan 16, 2012 |
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Jaines Cord plans to kill the man who murdered her husband, even though killing a Bounty Hunter is said to be impossible. One bullet took away her livelihood, her home and her love. One bullet made by her. Fired from the gun she completed for the Arcane Bounty Hunter. Obsidian barley escaped with his life and now lives quietly, in a town the lawmen forgot. When Jaines arrives asking too many questions, he's faced with a decision. Yet when Obsidion is offered an oppurtunity to stop the stone taking over his body in exchange for retrieving the gun, he asks Jaines for her help. Now Jaines must choose: A dead man's vengeance or a living man's hope?… (more)

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