Vicki Pettersson,
Sign of the Zodiac #1: Scent of Shadows
(Eos, 2007)

Joanna Archer comes late to her heritage. At 25, she discovers Xavier Archer, the man she called father, is not. Zoe, her mother, left her nine years before.

The Zodiac troop calls her the Kairos, the one who is foretold to bring balance to Light and Shadow. In fact, she is a half-blood -- her mother Zoe was an undercover Light agent and her father, the Tulpa, was a created man who leads the Shadow forces.

The woman born Joanna Archer has to search for her own identity among several: Joanna Archer, her name at birth; Kairos, what the Zodiac calls her; and Olivia Archer, her dead sister's name and face, which were given by the Zodiac to protect her.

She calls herself the Archer and bears the sigil of Saggitarius. The Archer was reborn on her 25th birthday as her younger sister Olivia died in an attack led by dark forces.

Now, the Archer has to make up for a lot of lost time. Shadow forces have killed 10 of the Zodiac 175 team who takes care of her hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada. She wants to stop the Shadows, but she may not even have a chance to fight, because the "Light" team senses the darkness in her and is afraid.

Scent of Shadows is Vicki Pettersson's first novel. While she has a killer "blurb circle" including some of my favorite authors, she doesn't quite live up to the promise of the stellar endorsements.

There truly is nothing new -- whether a work comes off as original, trite or merely confusing depends on how the author blends the ingredients of concepts, plotlines, characters and text. The overtones of Star Wars were just a little too strong. The Archer was a little too "Anakin" for me. Even the Shadow Leader, "Tulpa," reminded me of Darth Vader. Petterson has not neglected many other tried-and-true fantasy concepts, including the four elements, opposites, the orphan child, etc.

Setup took a while -- about 150 pages. There are definitely some interesting ideas posited in these pages -- including comics being an actual archive of superhero stories. Nevertheless, the writing could have been clearer and portions of the scenes could have been edited down or omitted, giving more room at the end to lead toward the climax.

Pettersson's characters are interesting and I'd definitely consider reading the sequel. Character development is awkward and reads more like she's moving pieces on a board, but that could change as the author matures -- which she hopefully will do, unless the mass media sells her book so well that she doesn't have to. That would be sad.

review by
Becky Kyle

19 July 2008

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