TPG reviews: Minutes Before Sunset, by Shannon A. Thompson
Fans of paranormal romance will eat this up, but it’s unlikely to win any new converts to the genre.
Eric has less than a year left before his fated battle when he meets her. She’s a shade like him, but separated from the Dark – and Eric has less than a year left before his fated battle when he meets her. She’s a shade like him, but separated from the Dark – and with more power than she should have. And he can’t stay away.
Jessica is new to town and desperate to figure out who, or what, her birth parents were. But she can’t find them without overcoming Eric, and she won’t let him stop her.
‘Minutes Before Sunset’ happens through the minds of two young adults as they struggle to survive their paranormal realities and find balance in their human lives.
Published only a few months ago, Minutes before Sunset has been receiving a fair amount of attention online, This is hardly surprising, seeing as the author runs one of the most useful and active writing blogs I’ve yet to come across. The book has already garnered many reviews, the vast majority of which have been highly positive.
I regret to say that this review will not be among them.
Now, I’m not saying that Minutes is a bad book – it isn’t – or that I didn’t enjoy it. Rather, I’m saying that I personally found it to be flawed. It’s good, yes, but it could easily have been so much more.
Let’s start with the premise: essentially, Dark is Not Evil and Light Is Not Good taken to their logical conclusions. The book presents us with two warring factions, the Dark and the Light, with the twist that the ‘dark’ faction are the good guys. Members of both factions have the power to morph into supernatural entities capable of energy blasts, flying, telepathy and so on. It’s a neat concept, but the problem is that it never feels particularly deep. The “dark” characters are all good, the “light” characters are all evil, and only those with a shared heritage seem to have a choice as far as morality goes.
At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Eric Welborn. Eric lives in Hayworth with his wealthy father and stepmother and, like all boys his age, goes to school every day. Eric is also a shade and, like all shades, goes by another name whenever he is in his shifted form. In Eric’s case, that name is Shoman. Eric/Shoman is the prophesised First Descendent and is far more powerful than any of his peers. In the near future he is destined to duel to the death with Darthon, the Second Descendent and a member of the Light. Unfortunately, his chances of surviving the encounter haven’t been looking good:
My jaw locked. “I can fight, Luthicer.”
“How you expect to defeat Darthon when you can’t even stand my powers?” he asked, referring to his previous test. “I’m a half-breed, Shoman. A Half-breed. I’m not even close to matching Darthon’s power level-”
Nnng…must…resist…urge to…ah, sod it:
Eric, however, has an additional complication to contend with. Very early on, he meets Jessica, an orphaned female shade with no knowledge of her heritage. The girl is unusually powerful and Eric fears that she will be killed if his tribe finds out about her; Eric therefore decides to teach her on his own. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two soon begin to fall in love. A good amount of dramatic irony follows: shades look unrecognisable when transformed and, on Eric’s instruction, both he and Jessica keep their human identities a secret. Cue the two ending up in the same class at school.
Both characters narrate, with a roughly 50:50 split between the two. Of the two, Eric’s sections were easily my favourite. Eric’s responsibilities have weighed heavily on him, resulting in him having deteriorated into a bitter loner by the time of the story’s start. He is angsty and often irresponsible, but never to the point of becoming unlikable. Training and interacting with Jessica provides him with a welcome break from the stresses that otherwise occupy his life, and he slowly begins to open back up to the world around him. In turn, he starts to truly feel as though he has something to fight for when the time comes to duel Darthon. I really found myself getting behind Eric, and not just in terms of his romantic relationships. Both his personality and development were written splendidly.
I didn’t find Jessica’s sections to be nearly as enjoyable. While Eric’s scenes always had a clear purpose, several of Jessica’s sections felt like padding. Her scenes also seemed to be building towards an incredibly obvious reveal which is then neither confirmed nor denied by the end of the book. Maybe I’ll turn out to be wrong, but if the reveal will be what I think it is then it really didn’t need more than one book to set up.
This book’s central romance, by the way, is handled very well. It was often heartwarming, occasionally cheesy, but always enjoyable. The relationship developed at just the right pace, and each individual development was easy to believe. The characters felt as though they had genuine chemistry between them, and I found myself really rooting for this relationship to succeed. Fans of romance will be in for a treat.
That said, the rest of this book’s characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Generally speaking, the shade characters were done well, the human characters felt flat and the light characters flatter still. Jessica’s foster parents were particularly disappointing: they only appear in a handful of scenes, and never felt like anything more than plot devices. Considering how well the relationship between Eric and his father is portrayed, this is a strange omission.
I should also mention that there really isn’t an awful lot of action in this book: the first light character doesn’t appear until after half way through, and the first proper fight is nearly 70% of the way into the book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I expected from the book’s premise.
Minutes before Sunset is by no means a bad book, but it has a lot of unmet potential. Its central romance is very well done and was a true treat to read, but I felt that its other aspects could have been done better. The book is intended to be the first in a trilogy, so there is still plenty of time for the story to evolve beyond being merely good; I, for one, will be following this series with interest.
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