Joanna Archer, representing the Light-side Sagittarius sign in the Zodiac troupe of Las Vegas, continues to juggle her new-found life in her sister’s body. Not only does she have to keep up appearances of being the sole progeny to the richest man in the city, she also has to protect society from the Shadow organisation hellbent on terrorising the innocent. Finding herself in a rather peculiar predicament, Joanna reluctantly makes a deal with a Shadow initiate; one that she might come to regret.
(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)
I’ve always been fond of the good ol’ fight between good and evil, so the aspect of superheroes was definitely refreshing to return to. Whilst finding The Scent of Shadows to be rather average as a whole, I believed this instalment (Signs of the Zodiac series is six instalments long) to be a large decline – primarily because of the heroine herself, Joanna Archer. I personally love the first-person perspectives that dominate the genre; it gives an in-depth and intimate picture of the character, however it can be especially unforgiving if that character happens to be someone you dislike.
And boy, did I dislike her.
I’m a firm believer that characters should be flawed, because people are flawed, however there’s only so much I can take when I can find very little redeeming qualities. Joanna repeatedly made the exact same error and refused to learn from it, instead putting herself and her troupe at risk over and over. I’m legitimately shocked how anyone could find her actions reasonable, and how anyone could consider her a good protagonist. Being vengeful is one thing, but being stupidly selfish is another thing entirely.
Let me give a rundown of her transgressions; the ones that bothered me the most. 1: She kept going off alone after the bad guy, with the knowledge that her enemy was stronger. Thus, he would obviously get the better of her and she would need rescuing by her team. This happened three times, if I remember correctly. 2: The gateway to the Light side’s secret hideout, she compromised it twice (the second time she was well aware of her actions), and so put the safety of her group, not to mention children, at risk. 3: Due to jealously, she couldn’t allow her ex-boyfriend to move on, so she forced herself back into his life, when he was just beginning to be happy again. And she spent a night with him, then disappeared again.
The third one bothered me the most, I think. This is a woman whose identity needs to be kept a secret, yet as soon as she caught a whiff of a new woman in Ben’s life, she didn’t waste any time to metaphorically urinate all over him. The fact is, she can’t have any sort of relationship with him, she can’t even allow him to see her physical appearance unless she uses a prepubescent’s shield-mould-thing. Am I the only one that found it creepy, that she had sex with Ben whilst using that little girls essence or whatever it was?
I’m going to end the rant about our dear Joanna there, if I can bring myself to it.
I can’t say I favoured any of the other characters either, except maybe Regan. She really did play her role expertly, and I daresay she’ll be one hell of a villain for the team to battle in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what she has in store for the Light side. Sometimes you just have to root for evil, because in this case, the Light doesn’t exactly offer anything substantial. I mean, what do we have? Hunter? Well, he took a page from Joanna’s book; his selfishness actually resulting in someones death. I’m not a fan of love triangles anyway; I’d much rather he or Ben be removed from the equation altogether. Warren and Tekla’s frustration throughout was understandable – they were definitely the adults of the situation.
The plot itself could’ve been better. I honestly expected the plague to have more of an impact, but it didn’t even occur until a hundred plus pages. The focal point seemed to be Joaquin, and because of such the tone of the book was needlessly dark. Joaquin was portrayed badly; his entire thought process being about rape, despite him apparently being an avid collector of the comics. It was basically telling us he had depth, yet every time he was on-page he was constantly sexually abusing and / or harassing women. At one point he even yelled: “I will rape you, Joanna!”, which in itself summed up his character perfectly.
In conclusion: I like the premise of this series, I do, but I got pretty sick and tired of Joanna’s mess. I dearly hope she’ll develop into something better.
“Uh… good doggie?” I said, taking in the sight of an animal with the muscle of a bear and the angular ferocity of a wolf. He let a warning rumble loose in his throat, and the deep reverberation jarred through my immobile bones like a jackhammer through concrete.
© Red Lace 2018