Slaying Shadows, by Dan Rix

Let me start by saying that I didn’t know I’d enjoy this series so much, and I certainly didn’t know I’d plow through these four books so quickly. When I started, I didn’t realize how long the series was, so when I read the author’s note at the end of the third book telling me I was halfway through the series, I was filled with terrible anguish. Not because I was getting closer and closer to the end, but because the fifth and sixth books have yet to be released! You mean I’m actually going to have to wait to find out what happens next? That’s like spending the next few months on Tartarus!

But since I’m really here on Earth, let’s talk about book four. Remember, I’ll do what I can to keep the review spoiler-free for this book, but I really do have to mention some plot points from the previous three.

The previous book ended with Leona returning from the dark planet orbiting the black hole and heading to confess to Emory for Ashley’s death. Emory’s with his girlfriend, and she’s…Leona herself! Is it a dark matter copy of her like how there was evil-Ashley in book two?

This book starts with a one-page prologue reminding the reader of this scene…except it’s narrated by THE OTHER LEONA! This is abso-freaking-lutely brilliant, and it expertly sets up the main conflict driving the book.

This other Leona isn’t the dead-eyed vengeful zombie that the other Ashley was. She seems like Leona, and they each make plausible arguments of how the other could be the fake Leona. I saw both scenarios, and because the prologue switched point of view, a little twinge of doubt about the narrator being the real one was always in the back of my mind. That kept me more on my toes than in the previous two books. Every twist, turn, dream sequence, blackout, shift in perspective, and vision shown by Dark was fresh and exciting. I like dopplegangers as a plot device about as much as invisibility, but throw them together whenever the Leonas spied on each other? Outstanding!

The alien invasion has started, and people all over the world are vanishing and reappearing as dopplegangers. The military is ready to fight, and at least one of the Leonas has discovered a weapon and has Emory on her side. The literal opposite of dark matter is light matter, but I won’t spoil what this blue substance is made of. You’ll just have to follow the breadcrumbs to learn the answer, and I’m intrigued about the commentary on humanity it may make in subsequent books.

There are scenes within the multi-dimensional space inside a wormhole. These scenes are vividly described and really intrigued the physics nerd in me. I loved how Leona (whichever one she was) tried to make sense of what she perceived there. Rix took a theoretical construct and made it into a very real—and mesmerizing—place for the narrator.

Throughout this installment, I found myself ruminating upon the ongoing themes of guilt and atonement. Leona finally gets to confess to Emory for hiding his sister Ashley’s dead body, but can Leona fully atone for her sins? Would going to jail be enough? What about being in some sort of solitary personal Hell? Would such a sin split apart someone’s soul—or could they lose it completely? But would any of those punishments make a difference without being able to look the person you’ve wronged in the eyes? Or face her ghost? Or without being able to look yourself in the eye? That last one is brilliantly symbolized by the literal presence of the two Leonas alternatingly trying to form a tenuous truce and battling for dominance. I find it most amazing that since the start of book one, Leona has atoned in so many different fashions.

For her and Earth’s sake, let’s hope it’s enough. The events on the horizon in the yet-to-be-released fifth book Black Sun look bleak. Curse you, Dan Rix, for making me have to wait and find something different to read until then!

Let’s recap the rankings thus far. I thoroughly loved the 5-star premise, twisty-turny plot, scientific explanations, and symbolism of Translucent.  The horror of Of Starlight was fun, but I missed some of the science, so I gave it 4.5 stars. I predicted a few too many events in Ash and Darkness, but the ambitious storytelling of Leona alone earned its slightly lower 4.5 stars. As for Slaying Shadows, I loved the which-one-is-the-real-Leona plot and the deep symbolism. This installment is my favorite since the first, slaying shadows (though only faint ones) of the previous two and rising back up to FIVE STARS.

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Slaying Shadows is available at Amazon.

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