the scent of shadows: first sign of the zodiac by vicki pettersson

Posted on September 27, 2009


The romance is secondary to the story, I know, but I’m convinced Ben Traina would make an awesome star of a spinoff gritty detective series where something fishy is always paranormal.

scent of shadowsReading this fast and furious, I was blown away by the dark and edgy storyline, the strong characters, the sharp lines between good guys and bad guys. The characters’ emotions were violent and powerful and the writing was compelling, engaging me with its flair for the dramatic. Then I took a moment to breathe, sat down for a more detailed read, and discovered the gaps in the plot, the weak links, and the soft spots.

The Sign of the Zodiac Series follows the adventures of Joanna Archer, a freelance photographer and reclusive heiress who finds out she belongs to a supernatural group of beings calling themselves the Zodiac. Set in glitzy Las Vegas, an age-old battle between the Light and the Shadow sucks in innocents and villains alike. Brutally raped as a teenager, Joanna survived to prowl the streets after sunset, seeking for answers, and revenge. On her 25th birthday, she got her wish, transforming into the Archer, at the cost of a dear one’s life.

Yes, this is superhero stuff, complete with trading cards, lurid comics-style scenarios, and geeky fanboys in a corner comic shop where Joanna goes to research on the mythology of her race. A little corny, but the twists got me cornered into continuing. Apparently, Joanna learns, she is more than a Zodiac Sign; she is the Kairos, of Light and Shadow both.  Both sides want her, dead, alive, fighting with them, away from them… Sorry, it gets a bit tricky determining which way the wind blows.

This aspect is important, because Like Jean-Babtiste Grenouille of Perfume (The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind), these creatures track by scent. Their superhero senses could smell light and shadow, innocence and cruelty, everything in between as naturally as breathing—a talent that makes them sharp. Supposedly. So why these flaws?

  • Joanna’s age that she was raped keeps shifting from 15 to 16 then back again.
  • If the Shadow and Light can’t read each other’s comics, why don’t they ask/torture mortals who easily can for the story?
  • Joanna’s glyph should glow when true enemies are around, not only at cinematic moments with her “true father.”
  • The Tulpa, head of the Shadow Zodiac, sent a minion to rape and kill Joanna. Even if her scent was camouflaged afterward, they could have done basic research to figure out whose family she belongs to and that she survived.
  • Was it such stretch for the Tulpa to consider his affair with a Light Agent may have born fruit and that he was the father of the Kairos?
  • If a child of the previous Archer was so hated by the Tulpa, why didn’t he target Joanna’s sister Olivia, too?

I noted several more, but noting them all down would take up too much blog space. But what the heck, this is comics stuff. We love these glaring discrepancies so we will have the pleasure of pointing them out, filling them up with our own imaginative conjectures. In my book and In Scent of Shadows, the visuals and olfactory-rich narrative made it well worth the read.

Posted in: fantastic