Shades of Dark is the sequel to Gabriel's Ghost and the second book in Linnea Sinclair's Dock 5 Universe series. While Shades of Dark picks up where the first book left off and focuses on the same main characters, the third book Hope's Folly (to be released in February 2009) is about Philip Guthrie, a secondary character in the series so far. Shades of Dark should not be read before Gabriel's Ghost and this review will contain spoilers for the former book (reviewed here).
Shades of Dark
by Linnea Sinclair
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.2/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.08/5
This novel picks up about three months after the end of Gabriel's Ghost. Sully and Chaz have left Marker after successfully destroying their first jukor lab and are back to life on the ship Boru Karn - and heading for a meeting with an informant who claims to know the location of another one of these labs. When she cannot sleep one night, Chaz happens to see her last name in a news headline. The article turns out to be about the arrest of her brother, Thaddeus Bergren, for his role in the events at Marker. Of course, Chaz is worried about what will happen to Thad but she is also concerned that his mind will be probed since he is one of the only people with knowledge about Sully's telepathic powers. This disclosure of Sully's Kyi-Ragkiril abilities, feared by the vast majority of humanity, would be detrimental to their cause since no one would want to help Sully. Furthermore, most of Sully's crew do not know what he is and may react badly upon hearing the fact that he could easily destroy their minds if he so desired.
In addition to fear over Thad's predicament and a possible impending mutiny, Chaz and Sully must also contend with the increasing strength of Sully's powers, which he hides from Chaz for a time. The reason for the rapid change is unknown, but Sully finds the new things he can do simultaneously intriguing and disconcerting. In the end, he still views himself as a "hell-spawned soul stealer" and fears that keeping Chaz close to him is a mistake - and one that he does not have the personal strength to avoid.
By the end of Gabriel's Ghost, I was so hooked that I had to go out and buy Shades of Dark so I could start it immediately. That night, I was halfway through this book and finished it about two days later (it would have been much sooner if I didn't have to go to work). I found this one a little slower to get into in the beginning with a few info dumps about happenings from the previous book but overall better (and much darker) than the first book. Dark books are my favorites, and I really loved how Sully had to come to terms with who and what he was in this book.
Gabriel's Ghost was largely about the obstacles Kyi-Ragkirils had to overcome to be accepted and downplayed their evil since Sully was overall a decent man and Ren (who was not actually a Kyi-Ragkiril but was the race often judged to be one) was the kindest and gentlest being imaginable. Sully was often feared for his abilities by Chaz and later hated for them by Philip, who knew a lot about the worst of Kyi-Ragkirils but often did not know the entire truth. Yet as Sully used his powers for good (such as preventing both Ren and Philip from dying), it seemed as though the dangers of Kyi-Ragkirils had been overstated. It appeared to all come down to what type of person wields the power instead of the actual ability contributing to unethical acts. In Shades of Dark, this is refuted to an extent. Sully is conflicted between his beliefs and the need to exercise his powers more, which is further enforced by the encouragement of a mentor.
Chaz is still a very strong and likable heroine - analytical to the extreme and very practical. She is a strong woman who makes her own decisions, is very capable, and Sinclair does an excellent job of keeping true to her character in both books. Her own struggle with Sully's difficulty at reconciling his two sides also makes for some excellent reading and she is a very sympathetic character.
There is one minor complaint I had with this book other than the aforementioned info-dumping contributing to a slow start - the number of times Chaz was referred to as "the pride of the Sixth fleet" or "the one-time pride of the Sixth fleet" or any variation of "the pride of the Sixth fleet." The references to this were excessive. We get it - she was held in high regard and now she's an escaped prisoner on the run from the law, oh how the mighty have fallen.
For those who have read and enjoyed Gabriel's Ghost, Shades of Dark is a followup worth reading with a much darker tone and more complex questions. Unless one has an aversion to books that are not light and happy, this one is highly recommended to fans of its predecessor.
Read Chapter Two