Running Scared by Shannon K. Butcher

I was sent this book for review from the publisher.  This is a paranormal romance series about a war between Sentinel races who protect our world from the monsters (the Synestryn) who wish to overrun it. Each book focuses on a Theronai (one of the Sentinel races) warrior and his search for a compatible woman with the ability to siphon off his power and keep him from becoming a soulless killing machine.

My reviews of the first two books:
Book 1: Burning Alive
Book 2: Finding the Lost

The Premise:
In this third installment of the Sentinels series, Lexi, who was introduced in the first book, believes the Sentinels are the bad guys and have kidnapped her friend Helen (the heroine of book 1, Burning Alive). She’s devised a plan to get Helen out and destroy the Sentinel stronghold. A new group is introduced called the Defenders of Humanity. They are humans who are fighting the Sentinels and think the Synestryn are their pets.  Meanwhile Zach wants Lexi and has no idea of her real motives.

Read an excerpt of Running Scared

My Thoughts: Lexi was introduced very early on in the first book of this series, Burning Alive, which focused on her friend Helen and on the Theronai warrior, Drake. Lexi was a waitress at the cafe where Drake first found Helen and took her away when the Synestryn attacked it. Lexi grew up knowing about the Sentinels but believes incorrectly that the Sentinels are horrible killers. When Lexi met Drake and his warrior buddy Zach at the restaurant she flees for her life.  Unfortunately Zach thinks that Lexi is the woman who can keep his soul alive, and so he’s been desperately searching for her, which only heightens her fear that he wants to kill her. Finally after months of running, Lexi wants to rescue her friend Helen who she thinks the Sentinels have brainwashed and uses Zach to get to her friend, and to finally destroy the Sentinels.

I was looking forward to reading this romance because Lexi seemed to be more of a tough character than the first heroine, Helen. My first impression was that she knew how to take care of herself and to survive alone. In Running Scared, I think she keeps the distrusting persona around.  She holds on to her walls for much longer than the other two heroines, which I found believable, but there were some places where her actions didn’t feel consistent, particularly in the beginning of the book. I just don’t understand how Lexi can say that she doesn’t trust Zach, and she fears him to the point that she’s quaking, but she also finds it hard to keep her hands off him and thinks of him in a sexual way? Perhaps this is supposed to show that deep down, Lexi feels the connection with Zach and it wars with her hard held beliefs, but it read as shaky logic. I would have believed the attraction more if her fear had at least started to go away. I noticed similar situations in the previous books where I felt that the heroine would do something that seemed to go against what I’d learned about their situations up to that point.

The narration is in the third person point of view, but there were a lot of shifts to other characters (more than in the previous two books in my opinion).  Butcher cleverly interweaves her main story with that of side romances and other story arcs that keep the reader hooked to this series. I think I was ready to read Lexi and Zach’s story right after book 1, but instead Butcher focused on another couple while dropping tantalizing hints about Zach and Lexi’s romance (Zach would appear haggard and desperate in front of the other couples, and the story would focus on Lexi running from him for a few pages before returning to the main story). The author does it again with a couple that was introduced in the second book, Finding the Lost,: Nika (the sister of book 2’s heroine, Andra) and Madoc (a Sentinel who helped find Andra and Nika). I’ve been sucked into their story and I think their romance is next in Living Nightmare. In the meantime, we’re also treated to reappearances of characters from the first two books and their ongoing stories: established Theronai couple Gilda and Angus who are going through a difficult time, the Sanguinar and their plans (they’re fighting their extinction), and the evil machinations of the Synestryn. Because of the cutaways from the main story to other developing story arcs, I would say you do have to read this series in order or you will find yourself a little lost whenever side stories get their focus over the main romance.

Overall: I’d put down this series as one tailored to those who like their heroes to be strapping and heroic with heroines sought after and cherished. There’s an eighties action movie vibe – it’s sheer entertainment.  There’s definitely an addictive quality to these books, and the ongoing subplots are becoming very interesting, but the characterizations can be shaky (YMMV). Running Scared is probably the strongest book in this series so far, although I’m very interested in what happens to the next couple (Madoc & Nika).

Buy: Amazon | Powells | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
The Book Lush – 3.5

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