This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Shadowheart wasn't quite what I expected it to be. But it looks as though the reviewers were overreacting a bit to the so-called deviant sex in the book. I can't say I particularly liked the book, but I also didn't dislike it.
It's a nice story - key word there 'story'. It was kind of like a fairytale The book was long and tedious at times, with a lot of wasted space on inane events. But overall, it was a fairly interesting storyline. There were just a lot of things I took issue with. I think one of the critical errors of the books is the way Kinsale handled the POVs.
You get no sense of Allegretto other than through Elena's eyes, no insight into his character through his POV. Then suddenly halfway through the book she slips into his POV for a short while.
After that, the book is still mostly Elena, but once in a while, you get a glimpse of Allegretto's thoughts, just not enough. Allegretto is such a complicated character, who does things that are unexpected and unexplained.
The book would have been served more if she had used his POV more, and it certainly would have worked out better if she had not ignored him for the first half of the book. Focusing so much on Elena kept the readers from connecting with Allegretto and understanding his character.
Another issue with the story is that it is supposedly directly connected to another book, in which Allegretto is first introduced. The plot of that book apparently deals with the time in Monteverde when the revolution began. Kinsale does a poor job of relaying the history of the fictional place in the beginning of the book.
For readers who did not read this earlier book, you're left a bit out in the wind as to the situation, the events, and other aspects that would have made things clearer. Kinsale fell into the trap many authors do in assuming that if you are reading this book then you read the other and therefore don't need explanations.
It just made things confusing for a while. Issue 3 and it's 3 sub-issues The extent of it in the book involves some biting and the use of fingernails. That's all. No paddles, no whips, no tools of any kind. Just the biting and use of fingernails. Yes, the sex was violent and used pain liberally, but it wasn't hardcore. It just wasn't the pretty stuff of typical romance novels. Which leads to sub-issue one: Elena's age.
In the beginning of the book, she is 17 years old this is a historical after all, females are generally young.
But she is an innocent young girl with no worldly knowledge. Then suddenly she is a FemDom who inflicts pain.
There's no transition, no learning process for her. She's just suddenly a Dominatrix. It doesn't work and leads to an element of disbelief because the reader has a hard time accepting that she would know about any of these issues without some sort of learning process. There should have been a transition, with Elena gradually discovering the elements of pain and control.
Sub-issue 2 in this area relates to the POV issue. Since Kinsale does not use Allegretto's POV very much, and not at all for the first half of the book, the reader gets no insight into his actions. Why does he allow Elena to dominate him? Why does he submit? Why does he enjoy the pain she inflicts? Allegretto is built up as this true Alpha male who likes to be in control, who has no feelings and kills without remorse. Then he lets Elena do what she does to him, and the reader is given only small crumbs as to his inner thoughts and reasoning.
Like the issue with Elena's age, this also fosters disbelief. How is the reader supposed to accept his actions without any kernels as to why he allows it? You get a slight impression now and then that he is allowing it as his penance for all the sins he has committed in his lifetime, but you never get a true insight into his character.
It was just really hard to accept his submissiveness when you aren't given much insight into his character. Sub-issue There was hardly ever any gentleness between them. I had a hard time accepting the love between them when their only interactions involved dominating and causing pain. It was like their bond depended solely on pain and domination. The love between them overall was hard to comprehend.
It's a little too typical. Aside from that, you get no understanding of why Allegretto loves her and why Elena accepts who he is after she complains about it for most of the book.
I just did not feel the connection between them. They are just supposed to love each other. But most of the time, they just seemed like 2 characters who liked to have unorthodox sex. Yet Elena said numerous times that she would sacrifice going to Heaven for him. I didn't buy it. Which leads to the last issue with the book - and again this is a personal preference one - is the very heavy reliance on religion. One of the main themes of the book is sin and redemption. For a true atheist like me, it made me want to roll my eyes half the time.
But on a more general religious aspect They want to confess their sins and be redeemed, be 'good' Catholics. Yet both characters engaged in pagan practices and never seemed to have any qualms about it. Every other action they committed was intertwined with their religious beliefs, but their pagan practices were ignored and accepted. That seemed a bit wrong to me. Shadowheart was a so-so book. Too many things about it bothered me to make me like it more. I often found myself enjoying the 'plot' of the book where Monteverde is freed from its violent oppression more than the characters and the supposed romance.
Still, the story was long and tedious. I kept putting it down to take a break to do something fun. I had to work a bit to make it through the book. But it was an interesting story.
And while I applaud Kinsale for delving into non-traditional sexual practices, I wish she would done it more realistically and explored the characters psyches more.