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Book Review: Binding the Shadows by Jenn Bennett

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

Holy cow!  I just finished reading Binding the Shadows, the third book in Jenn Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, and I have to ask: is it really going to be another year before the next one comes out?  Because I don’t think I can wait that long.

The description, courtesy of Jenn Bennett’s website:

Demons sure know how to kill a girl’s buzz . . .
Renegade mage and bartender Arcadia Bell has had a rough year, but now the door to her already unstable world is unhinging. When a citywide crime wave erupts, Cady’s demon-friendly tiki bar is robbed by Earthbounds wielding surreal demonic abilities that just flat-out shouldn’t exist. With the help of her devilishly delicious boyfriend, Lon Butler, Cady sets out to find the people who wronged her—but her targets aren’t the only ones experiencing unnatural metamorphoses. Can Cady track down the monsters responsible before the monster inside her destroys everything—and everyone—she loves? If she survives this adventure, one thing is certain: it’s last call for life as she knows it.

Okay…where do I begin?

A lot of my longtime favorite urban fantasy series are either wrapping up, or they’re getting there.  On the other hand, new series often take me a while to get into.  The Arcadia Bell series is one of the few I read that, at the third book in, is at the “picking up steam” place in the series.  The third book, I’ve found, is the make-or-break point for many series.  This is where the series can falter or fly.

The Arcadia Bell series is definitely flying high.

So what did I like?  Without giving too much away, Cady faces both magical and emotional problems in this book—and often both rolled into one.  She’s coming into her Moonchild power, and the consequences of that will have long-term implications for Cady; her friends; and her boyfriend, Lon.  

The romantic relationship between Cady and Lon is fast becoming one of my favorite in urban fantasy.  Lon’s not your typical alpha male.  He’s quieter, doesn’t need to dominate every situation, and somehow feels more real somehow.  In this book, Cady and Lon have become more settled in their relationship, and more serious.  Bennett manages the delicate balance of showing an established, committed relationship while still keeping things interesting.

Also, Jupe, Lon’s 13-year-old son, may be my favorite teenage character ever.  He steals every scene he’s in.  He eschews typical teenage angstiness in favor of enthusiastic recklessness, which is a lot more fun to read.

But I think what really got me about this book is that there is not a single wasted word in it.  From the very beginning to the edge-of-your-seat conclusion, this book hooked me in and didn’t let me go.  The book kept moving at a great pace without ever feeling rushed.

The ending is going to be an issue for some readers.  If you hate cliffhangers, you might want to leave this one on the shelf until the fourth book comes out next year, because this one’s a killer.  But if you can tolerate the wait, it’s definitely a worthwhile read.

If you’re interested in giving this one a go, start at the beginning with Kindling the Moon.