Hunting the Shadows
Carina / May 7, 2012 / $5.99
Amy has spent her life in isolation. Locked away in the Centre, a secret government facility where children with extraordinary abilities are raised as highly skilled fighters, she longs for a normal life. A life where being around people doesn’t overload her sensitive telepathic mind. A life where she can’t see through the eyes of a murderer as he hunts down his next victim...
J.C. Nikolaiev was a top researcher, but when his conscience got the better of him, he tried to destroy his work and free his subjects-and was imprisoned as a traitor. To save himself and prevent more people from dying, J.C. must catch the serial killer stalking the halls of the facility. But his only leads come from a woman whose thoughts have invaded his mind...
Finally out of the psych ward, Amy joins forces with J.C. to find the killer before he closes in on them. Can their growing attraction withstand the truths they uncover?
Alexia Reed’s Hunting the Shadows features humans bred and trained in a secret government facility called The Centre. Each of the facility’s inhabitants has supernormal powers, in the vein of Marjorie Liu’s Dirk & Steele series, though the setup also reminded me a bit of the television show that made Jessica Alba famous, Dark Angel, and of another, older show called The Pretender. Adding to the worldbuilding, there is a mystery/suspense plot involving a serial killer. There are clear signs within the novel that this world could be the setting for a series, with an ongoing plot relating to the program and its many secrets.
The novel’s hero, J.C. Nikolaiev, not only has superpowers but is also one of the scientists who works for the Centre; his mother was one of its founding members, and she died experimenting on herself to spare others. When the story opens, J.C. is on the run, having followed in her footsteps to act against a part of the program that was going too far in its experiments. I particularly enjoyed how Reed created the various superpowers, explained how they worked, and showed what effect they had.
The crackle of electricity licked along his skin in warning. Instinctively J.C. lashed out to counteract the psychic energy that struck him in the chest, burning through his mental shields. He steeled himself against the pain, gritting his teeth as he fought the specialized attack of Stefan Gurvitch. The fiery touch reached deep, stealing the oxygen from his lungs. His skin prickled, his ears popping as though he’d fallen into a vacuum.
…His body weakened under Stefan’s attack—an assault that had once shredded an enemy’s mental shields so badly that the man went insane and died within twentyfour hours. There wouldn’t be a lot of time before his mind gave in to Stefan and rendered him completely defenseless.
…J.C. bared his teeth, ignoring the sharp stab of Stefan’s mind. It felt like someone was taking a hacksaw to his brain, each slice causing his consciousness to waver.
I especially liked the idea of this power, which could lead to all sorts of complications for both the character and the world itself.
Chronokinesis was too unpredictable. She could slow time down or use light to transport herself from one place to another, but she didn’t have the stamina to keep the ability going for long. Messing with time drained energy faster than any other ability documented.
However, the romance does not revolve around the hero and heroine’s superpowers, even though those very powers are the first way they communicate with each other, and lead to their meeting and interaction. Just like any romance, emotion is at the center. Each has something the other needs and wants. The heroine, Amy, has been severely deprived of human contact for her entire life so far.
She was lonely. She could lie to herself as much as she wanted to and say that she was fine and didn’t care, but at the end of the day, she was still locked in this room. A room she’d been brought to over twenty years ago. Because she was “crazy” and not fit be around others.
Freedom. She couldn’t fathom what it’d be like. She’d never stepped outside the Centre before. Never felt the wind against her skin or the sand under her feet unless she slipped into someone else’s mind. That was her reality.
J.C. also has a tortured past (and present), so it’s interesting to see the two navigate the emotional waters of their romance while also dealing with so many other issues. If you like superheroes and romance, this might be the story for you.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. She has a World War One-set Spice Brief out in May titled “Under Her Uniform,” a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.