Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book 1 by J. Matthew Saunders

You know, I do read NetGalley summaries. I really do. But sometimes there’s a long time in between my requesting a book and actually getting to it that I often don’t remember why I requested it in the first place. In this case, much of what I had read blurb-wise got forgotten.

So the vampires were a surprise.


by J. Matthew Saunders
Saint George’s Press, May 2015
Historical fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley

daughtersshadowbloodBuda, Ottoman Hungary, 1599: Yasamin, the naïve daughter of an Ottoman bureaucrat, finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage to the son of the powerful governor of Buda. She is unprepared for the gossip and scheming rampant in the palace but realizes she faces more than petty jealousies when someone tries to drown her in the baths on the day before her wedding. An unearthly menace lurks in the palace corridors, and the one person able to protect Yasamin is a soldier named Iskander, who seems to appear whenever she needs him. Charming and confident, he is nothing like her new husband, but trusting either of them could be a deadly mistake.

Berlin, Germany, 1999: Adam Mire, an American professor of history, discovers a worn, marked-up copy of Dracula. The clues within its pages send him on a journey across the stark landscape of Eastern Europe, searching for a medallion that once belonged to Dracula himself. But a killer hounds Adam’s footsteps, and each new clue he uncovers brings him closer to a beguiling, raven-haired woman named Yasamin Ashrafi, who might be the first of Dracula’s legendary Brides.

Adam has an agenda of his own, however, a quest more personal than anyone knows. One misstep, and his haunted past could lead to death from a blade in his back … or from Yasamin’s fatal embrace.

What I Loved

Introductory pacing. It didn’t take long for me to get into the story. Actually, the mention of Dracula’s medallion pretty much perked me up, and the fact that a great portion of the book took place in Ottoman Hungary piqued my interest.

A look at Dracula’s wives. This book, besides being a paranormal outlook of the 16th century, focuses on one of the three relatively unknown wives of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There isn’t much to be gleaned off of the Stoker novel, but I found that Saunders did well to take a closer look at each of the wives in turn, assuming the next books will delve into the past of the other two wives.

Yasamin’s story. Honestly, I thought Yasamin’s story carried the entire book, and I would have loved more insight into her past and how she managed to survive four hundred years without getting killed off by the numerous groups that seem to be after her.

Historical richness. There was a lot of historical events that were interwoven into the conversation and the story. Because I’m a dork and I had this slight obsession over the time period of Vlad the Impaler, Janos Hunyadi, Matthias Corvinus, and the subsequent Ottoman conquests (and because I may have spent one NaNoWriMo writing a historical fantasy about these said people), it was cool to read someone else’s take on things around the time period.

Love/Hate Relationship

‘My grandmother used to tell me about the place where she grew up, not far from here, just over the mountains. She said there is a special kind of djinn that takes the body of a deceased person and visits in the night to steal life from the living.’

Mixing of cultures. Actually, this is probably more along the stuff I love. Yasamin’s POV largely hinges on Ottoman and Persian myths, with the constant mentions of djinn and occasional ghuls (which may have been mentioned only in passing, and never outwardly said). Adam’s POV focuses on the Eastern European myth of the vampire and the conspiracies revolving around secret European organizations. I liked that these became intertwined within the story. At some point, though, the interconnections kind of got confusing to follow, and I was a little disappointed that the “djinn” portion really didn’t amount to much in the end.

What I Didn’t Like

Too many POVs. For a book that’s around 330 pages, there were too many viewpoints added into the story. Honestly, I thought Adam and Yasamin were great as viewpoints, and I found their sharing of each other’s stories kind of likened itself to the Scheherazade tale. Only, in this case, it’s Adam who’s trying to keep himself alive by having to entertain the Byzantine-Ottoman vampire. Unfortunately, the POVs didn’t stop there, and the book included various one-off accounts as well as written accounts of Michael the Brave and a third viewpoint of “Evil Mystery Man”. There was too many, and I found myself not caring about the introduction of characters that ended up getting killed off the very next scene after they got introduced.

Disjointed narratives. This kind of goes along the same path as too many POVs. The chapters are short, and often frustratingly so, especially when right after a specific scene, the next chapter moves onto a different scene and not altogether related to the previous one. This drove me nuts, especially when all I wanted to do was continue Yasamin’s story, only to be thrown into a conversation between Adam and Yasamin, and then onto a letter from some dude that makes a mention of Yasamin, and then back to Adam’s action-oriented POV. It made no narrative sense to me, and by the time I got back to Yasamin, I was missing the point of what Adam was trying to make several chapters back.

Underwhelming ending. I’m assuming most of the mysteries are carried over to the next books, but is it too much to ask for a bunch of the conflict to get resolved in Book 1? Yasamin is no closer to getting what she wants, Adam is no closer to getting what he wants (minus the little revenge angle), and I’m pretty sure Mr. Evil Mystery Man is not even close to causing the havoc that he wants.

Deus ex machina. I feel like Adam gets saved by random characters that show up at the nick of time whenever he’s about to die. Then on top of that, he gets in one trouble after another. The guy can’t catch a break, he leaves a lot of death behind him (and it seems like the ONLY ones he felt sorry about are the girls he could have had romantic relationships with), and he barely carries his own weight as far as getting himself out of trouble goes. There’s a point where he gets saved by a “mysterious figure” that shows up in the nick of time, and I just. Could. Not. Deal.

3 out of 5 cookies! The premise was great, but I’m not sure I could get through another book with so many disjointed narratives.


2 thoughts on “Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book 1 by J. Matthew Saunders

  1. I haven’t heard of this book before but the premise sounds beautiful and fascinating. Glad to see that it had a lot of historical richness. I actually really like mixing of cultures and mythology but sounds like it was done in a messy manner here. As always, fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

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