Shadows Before The Sun (Charlie Madigan #4) by Kelly Gay
July 31, 2012
Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I’ve fucking died and gone to Harry Winston’s.“
Detective Charlie Madigan has placed everything on hold to prepare for her trip to the heavenly Elysia to rescue her partner Hank and bring him back home. Only, once she gets there, she finds out there is nothing heavenly about Elysia at all. Soon embroiled in a siren revolution, Charlie places her life on the line as she battles her and Hank’s way out of Elysia only to come home and find herself marked by Death. While Charlie has been away, someone has been hunting for Ahkneri. This search has set off a chain reaction that places Charlie directly in the middle of a divine battle that could spell destruction for them all.
Spoilers from book three below so proceed at your own risk.
Shadows Before The Sun is the fourth installment of Kelly Gay’s explosive Charlie Madigan series. Fans of this series have waited impatiently for this installment after the dramatic ending of The Hour Of Dust & Ashes. Book three gave us the action this series is well known for, but it also further explored the relationship developing between Detective Charlie Madigan and her oh so sexy siren partner, Hank. We learned more about Hank and the reasons why he left Elysia. The ending left us in shock as Hank is forcibly dragged back to Elysia and Charlie had to let him go in order to save her sister. In Shadows Before The Sun, Charlie has cleared her plate and mounts a serious search and rescue mission to bring Hank home. Only, she’s been told that Hank is no longer alive. Charlie, not one to ever give up, decides to storm Elysia and find out for herself. Charlie gets some very interesting help in her search for Hank and learns more about Elysia, the sirens, and her own evolution. Once back in Atlanta, Charlie learns that Gregori has been searching for the divine being, Ahkneri and hoping to raise her. This spells disaster for all because raising her would start world war three, with Earth as the battleground. His search brings Death to Atlanta and it’s focus is Charlie. Charlie knows that she will have to embrace her new destiny in order to defeat Death
I absolutely adore this series. A dark and gritty urban fantasy thriller that combines strong vivacious characters with an ever evolving world that keeps you hanging on to the edge till the end. Filled with emotional and realistic situations, it’s the perfect balance of power and vulnerability. We are not burdened with over ripe angst or ridiculous unbelievable feats. Plot action and sizzling tension is tempered with humor and everyday life.
Heavily character driven, we experience a strong connection with Charlie. Her pain, her sorrow, and her triumphs are also ours. It has been a thrilling ride as we have watched her grow from a tragic, unapproachable person to having a more enjoyable and intimate connection with her family and friends. Her strong personality and values shine through with each book. In this installment, we see the Charlie that Gay has been building since book one. Focused, determined, and ready and willing to use the powers that have been building. The world building stays fresh and exciting with constant evolution as we travel through an alternative magical version of Atlanta, GA. Smooth steady pacing and exciting informative dialogue keeps our attention firmly fixed on the prize.
This world that Ms. Gay has created fascinates me with its mythos religious base of alien races, called off-worlders. The “heavenly” Elysia and “hellish” Charbydon are presented in the story as the basis for our perceived heaven and hell. Ms. Gay takes it a step further by allowing the off worlders (aliens) to come forward and integrate into our society thus effectively shattering our religious illusions. Civilization learns that they have been present for thousands of years, using our world as their personal battle ground. I like that she stops there and chooses not to further incorporate a religious theme into the storyline. Smooth steady pacing and tense action keeps our attention firmly fixed on the prize.
Our protagonist, Charlie Madigan, is the ultimate heroine. Strong, intelligent, and most of all human. Well, almost. Her humanity and family keeps her grounded and approachable as a character. She is a single mother who refused to accept the hand life dealt her; using her skills and unyielding personality to rise above it all. She is a true warrior in that she strives to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome. She doesn’t rely on her unknown powers to do her job for her. Plain, old fashioned detective work helps her solve her cases. Hank, an off worlder, is a siren and her partner. He is walking sex on a stick and in the beginning of the series, you sensed Charlie’s unease with him. Yet as we and Charlie have gotten to know him, you see that they are perfectly matched. She loves him, even though she hasn’t quite admitted that to herself.
“God, he was beautiful. And there was so much more to him then just the beauty. It was everything I had learned, everything on the inside, everything he had endured hat added to the picture standing there all hard and lean, a fallen angel with a tortured soul and a devil’s attitude.”
Charlie’s unpredictability is grounded by Hank’s knowledge of her. Hank sees Charlie, flaws and all, and accepts her completely. Hank’s ordeal is utterly heartbreaking. Not only what he experiences physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
“He went to place a hand on her broken body. Pushing her off the ledge would be such a simple thing and then he’d find peace. The serenity he’d glimpsed and longed for so many times called to him. Beckoned him stronger then any siren’s lure.”
Our cast of supporting characters are still as vivid and dynamic as ever. Each one fully capable of holding their own story. I like that each have their own distinct, separate personalities and sub stories; ensuring they are never overwhelmed by our protagonists. We don’t see much of Rex or Emma as before; this installment brings earlier background characters to the forefront. Pen, The Druid King, plays a large role and leaves us with the feeling that his interest in Charlie is far from over. Alessandra continues to both baffle and annoy Charlie, but more than holds her own in a fantastic sub story that will leave you reeling with the implications implied. We meet new characters who will both astonish and mystify as we watch to see where Gay will place them in the grand scheme of the arc. The villains of the series will leave you reeling with the depths of their depravity. At times I found myself having to place the book aside to deal with the overwhelming emotions I was experiencing as I read. I laughed, I cried, and I shook with anger as the story unfolded.
Ms. Gay’s Charlie Madigan series remains one of my favorite urban fantasy series to read and I cannot recommend it enough to everyone who enjoys a dark gritty read with plenty of action, suspense, and humor to keep you entertained till the very last page.