Killing Me Slowly

A leopardess who learned how to dance. And read.
Token of Darkness - Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Meh. This book leaves an overall impression of "meh" on me. It's actually kind of weird, because when I think of the specifics of the book itself, I can actually come up with more elements that I liked than ones that I didn't, but somehow, the overall response it evoked was one of bland indifference.

The concept here is something of a switch for Atwater-Rhodes' Den of Shadows books, in that it doesn't focus on that predator-prey dynamic between a human and a vampire, or the vampires and the witches. In fact, it doesn't have any vampires at all. Or witches. Or shifters. No, our cast here is almost exclusively human, the story is more mystery than action, and it's...well, kind of nice.

I'll be perfectly honest, I kind of expected to be bored by the lack of vampire/witch/shifter presence, but Atwater-Rhodes gets points for making her magically-inclined humans as much an interesting part of the world mythology as the supes. Nine books in, and we've really never gotten an idea of how humans factor in to the DoS world - aside from the ones who become snacks for, or are destined to be turned in to, vampires, of course. Turns out, there is actually quite a range of psychics and human "sorcerers" who exist outside the scope of the world that we've seen so far, and whose powers work completely differently than those of born-witch magic users like, say, the Vida family.

The primary focus of Token of Darkness is Cooper, an accidental psychic who woke up from a near-fatal accident with a "ghost" named Samantha at his side, presumably as a free gift with purchase. She has no idea who she is or how she died, but Cooper figures that if she followed him home, then in accordance with popular culture, he must be intended to help her move on or something. Unfortunately, weeks of research have turned up zilch, even on something as basic as her identity, so the quest to send Samantha in to the light has come to something of a dead end.

Though he's become somewhat resigned to Samantha's presence, Cooper hasn't quite recovered from any of the other effects of his crash. He's plagued by remnants of the trauma, both physical and psychological, and that's probably the best part of the book. That sounds awful, but let me explain.

Cooper's surviving the crash was miraculous, but he didn't escape unscathed. His body is healing, but there's massive scarring, and hip and knee issues keep him from being fully physically able. Psychologically, he's difficultly adjusting to the idea of his new limitations and connecting with any of his family or friends. To make matters worse, PTSD has left him struggling with nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety attacks - especially in cars.

All of this is very well-realized throughout the book. You see it in every part of Cooper's life - in his decision to walk or utilize public transit whenever possible, in his nightmares and his inability to sleep, in his awkward exchanges with school mates. He's dealing with a lot in the wake of the crash, and I liked the acknowledgement of that. Trauma recovery as seen in urban fantasy (adult and YA) is typically either non-existent or, well, off-the-charts dramatic. Token of Darkness falls somewhere in the middle, and rings far truer than anything else I've read, dealing with similar issues.

That being said, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea that some of Cooper's lingering trauma could have just been the result of bad psychic juju...

Read complete review at You're Killing.Us.

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