Shadows (The Rephaim #1) by Paula Weston (4.8 Stars)

Love. Nightmares. Angels. War.

I want to thank NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this novel in exchange for feedback.

The Book

Gaby Winters is still emotionally recovering from an accident in which she lost her twin brother Jude a year ago. Adding to her grief, she has violent dreams of fighting demons and hellions next to a gorgeous young man, whom she names Matt. Matt, it turns out, is a real person named Rafa, and he has a very different version of her pre-accident life than she remembers.

Gaby is not a nineteen-year-old human girl, but 139-year-old half-angel. A Rephaim. She has been thought dead for the past year, but now people as well as creatures start appearing, asking questions about what really happened during the “accident”. Gaby can’t remember, and she certainly doesn’t know whom to trust.

Why I Read The Book

I got the book from NetGalley (again: Thank you!), knowing beforehand very little about the book series. The cover kind of gave away that it was about angels, and since I had just read the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, I was interested in reading more.

The Idea

Even now that I’ve read the book, I am still fascinated by the idea of losing one’s memory and living on new ones. I find this version of memory loss very inspired, an interesting starting point for any story. Especially a supernatural story as this one.

I have done some background reading on angels and Nephilim before, however, without biblical detail, so I can enjoy different interpretations of it, and this one is an interesting one, especially by naming them Rephaim.

It bothers me a bit that I still don’t know where exactly Gaby moved after the accident and where most of the novel takes place, but I did enjoy the setting descriptions.

The Characters

I run a hand through my hair, which is not blonde or neat. It’s dark and hard to manage. A bit like me.

Gaby is one of the most interesting characters I have read about in a long time. With the help of her friend/roommate Maggie she manages to get her life back on track after a traumatic accident by slowly rejoining the world, getting a job, interacting with and meeting new people, taking up sports. The way she copes with the news that her life in this beach village might be based on a lie is believable and easy to follow. Gaby, in der new as well as old life, stands in and fights for what she believes in and is never short of a clever comeback. What I like about her is that she won’t go down without a fight, mental or physical, and especially that she is neither a damsel in distress, nor invincible.

Rafa is the man of Gaby’s dreams. Literally. He is the best fighter of the Rephaim, part of a rebellious splinter group, and Jude’s best friend. His relationship with Gaby before the accident was beyond complicated, of which the reader, however, learns very little. Finding her again, he becomes protective of her, taking care of her in honour of his friendship to her brother, as he says. He is a strong, good-looking man, who knows about his charms and how to use them.

Maggie is Gaby’s roommate and the first friend Gaby makes when she arrives in the beach village. She is Gaby’s confidante, and knows how to handle her troubled friend. Even if she hadn’t been there the first time half-angels came for Gaby, I don’t doubt she would have learned about it. Maggie accepts this new world Gaby appears to be a part of, and even helps her gaining more information. She is a fun, open, supportive and very loyal character, the kind of friend every girl needs.

Jason is introduced as a surfer dude and potential love interest of Maggie’s. The importance of his character is underestimated for quite some time. I actually feel a bit stupid at how much I missed concerning him. He is the good guy through and through, protective of everyone he loves and everyone who is loved by them. However, he is a character with a big, important and leading secret, and it is the first of many in this book series to be revealed.

Upon Daisy’s first appearance, I wasn’t sure whether to trust her or not Through Gaby’s eyes she seemed to be on her side, but I wasn’t convinced. Luckily, the book wasn’t quite as cunning as I feared, and Daisy turned out to be Gaby’s best friend from before the accident. She is loyal to the point of endangering her health, but not her life. She is, presumably, the character who tells Gaby the closest version of the truth of her old life in this first book.

I recognize Daniel as one of the more important characters for the series. However, in this book, I can only say that I feel a depth to his character that I cannot articulate yet. I feel like his soft spot for Gaby could come into conflict with his loyalty to his side of the Rephaim’s cause.

Realization And Writing Style

I read the book within one day, started at breakfast, finished before going to sleep. I did not have the time to read non-stop, but whenever I had to set it aside, I wanted to return as quickly as possible. After all, the book starts out with a girl running, breaking down, and then being followed by a mysterious creature. It continues by mentioning her supernatural dream, and then suddenly a person from that dream appears in real life.

From the degree of swearing and level of violence, I cannot count this as a Young Adult novel, but would probably suggest it to be New Adult. It is, consequently, not the genre I prefer reading. In this book, however, I could not but continue reading and be glued to the (Kindle) screen. The events, as they followed one another, had a logical sequence. I was glad that nothing seemed to be planted too obvious, to further the development, but rather everything appeared logical.

As mentioned, there was swearing, but apart from that, the writing style was fluent and thought-through. I felt like there was an abundance of such words as “flashing” and “flickering”. I did like that there were no gaps, when conversations coincidentally were interrupted, but these talks, when important, were continued at a later point. Cuts between scenes were never too rough.

While I appreciated the events leading the story, I found the climax rather too big for the first part of a series. Instead of only a small fight between smaller groups, everything the novel has worked for (so far) already comes together, even including small and human side-stories. The next book, and especially the last one, have a lot to live up to now.

I had expected the book to reveal either Gaby’s old memories, or at least who changed them. The book series, however, holds so many more side stories which needed to be introduced and (partially) revealed first, that I can’t even say I’m disappointed for not getting to that yet. Because of that, though, it cannot be said, whether the path Gaby chose so far is in the mind of her old self, and it is exactly that point which makes me want to continue reading, even more than the slowly blossoming romance between her and Rafa – which I must assume is going to be far from smooth.

After Reading

Torn. On the one hand, I am completely and emotionally involved in this story, Gaby’s false memories, Maggie and Jason’s relationship, the two sides of the Rephaim, and whatever there is or isn’t and could and can’t be between Gaby and Rafa. On the other hand, I know that this genre is beyond my taste, goes just a step too far for my comfort zone, and, needing my romance, I am almost convinced from everything that has been mentioned, that the former relationship between Gaby and Rafa makes it now difficult for them to ever be a convincing happily ever after couple, once Gaby has all her memories back – which undoubtedly will happen. From the supernatural perspective, there is no doubt I want to continue.

Rating

Idea: 5 Stars
Characters: 5 Stars
Realization: 5 Stars
Writing Style: 5 Stars
General Rating: 5 Stars
Personal Rating: 4 Stars

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