This cover continues the "couple in the middle of space" theme that all Sinclair's books have now. I noticed that there is nothing on the cover to let the reader know that this is the continuation of the story that started in Gabriel's Ghost. That information is inside in the acknowledgements, and not everyone reads those. I know this isn't the author's fault, so why is this, publishers? I don't see how this can help but antagonize people who don't know and buy a book to find that it's book 2.
This review may have spoilers for Gabriel's Ghost.
Shades of Dark does pick up right after Gabriel's Ghost leaves off - Chasidah Bergren, ex-Fleet officer and her lover Gabriel Ross Sullivan are fugitives trying to clear their name and fight a corrupt Empire. There is some backstory explained at the beginning, but I hadn't read Gabriel's Ghost in a while so even I had problems remembering who was who just from the names. It took me a little bit to get back into the world, but throughout the book I still couldn't remember all the enemy factions – Darius Tage and Hayden Burke, Sheldon Blaine and the Farosians.. so it's worth making a little chart:
1. Darius Tage – bigwig in the Empire, xenophobe who is willing to breed jukors (mindless killing beasts) to have a weapon against the Ragkiril (usually Stolorths with telepathic powers, but Gabriel is a human one). In cahoots with Burke, has Emperor Prew's ear, and has been manipulating him to his own ends and destabilize the Admiral's Council (which controls the Fleet).
2. Hayden Burke – Sully's cousin. Playboy, in cahoots with Tage. Interested in discounting anything Sully does for their family's sizeable inheritances, wants power, also involved in breeding jukors.
3. Sheldon Blaine – claims he is the rightful heir to the emperor's throne (currently held by Emperor Prew). Is imprisoned in the planet Moabar, where Chaz was sent to at the beginning of Gabriel's Ghost. He is supported by a small group of Farosians.
4. The Farosians – Terrorists. A small faction on the side of Blaine, who want to free him from capitivity and take over the Empire. Call themselves Sheldon Blaine's Justice Wardens.
5. The Emperor/The Fleet – Because of the mechanisms of Tage and Burke, Sully and Chaz are considered terrorists and are on the run. Anyone on their side is on the wrong side of the law, dispite the powers being corrupt.
6. Purity Englarians – fanactical faction of Englarians who follow Abbot Eng's teachings and believe Takas are to be "guided" by humans and Stoloroths hated – and all Ragkiril's should be killed. A big problem for Sully and Chaz in the first book.
7. Mutunious crewmembers – Certain members of Sully's crew are not happy that there is a Stoloroth on board (Ren), who they think is a Ragkiril. A possible enemy within.
Do you see? How this is complicated? There's a lot of things going on despite much of the story taking place on Sully's spacecruiser, the Boru Karn. The book isn't short – 410 pages because of all the things going on. And besides all the intruige and incidents that happen in space because of their enemies and because they are wanted people, Sully and Chaz are also dealing with Sully's gifts as a Ragkiril. This is a darker story due to this. Sully has so much power, a power he feels is growing and which could corrupt him. Actually, it made the love story more complicated and interesting because of what Sully is going through. Now he and Chaz are ky'sara and ky'sal, they have to learn about it as they go along. Pushing matters further along, they meet Del, an exiled Stoloroth prince who wants to teach Sully, but who makes Chaz uncomfortable (I found him really creepy and sexual harassment sprang to mind).
Anyway, overall, I think this is a darker toned book that Sinclair's previous ones. I prefer the lighter stories, but this was more realistic because of the dark parts. There are a couple of shockers in here regarding some decisions Chaz makes in order to do the right thing. No spoilers, but things got really interesting in the last 30 or so pages. I didn't find the book as uncomfortable a read as some reviewers did, but I was disturbed by some things. The more I think about that, the more I liked this being part of the story.
It also felt like there were two distinct parts of the book that both focus on problems that are related to Sully's gift, like there were two big plots revolving around certain enemies, and because of them Sully is forced to deal with his Ragkiril nature. Once one major plotline was done with, the other one started, but both involved the darkness that comes with Sully's power. The only problem I had was that this book was pretty long, and there were lulls in the action. It that had to happen, but those parts felt slow to me. From the other reviews I see, I'm the only one who noticed though.
ETA: ALSO I noticed a lot more sex scenes in this book than any prior Sinclair novel. FYI.
This story continues in Hope's Folly, which is out in February 2009. It will focus on Chaz's ex-husband Admiral Philip Guthrie as he heads ex-Fleet, now-rebel forces in combat against the current Fleet. There's a teaser for this at the end of Shades of Dark, and it looks good.