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Embrace by Jessica Shirvington


a review by Nalini Haynes

Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace begins when Violet Eden is about to turn 17, a momentous day in any girl’s life. Violet’s bff is Stephanie, a geek in terms of grades, contrasting with Violet’s artistic talent. Their friendship is an attraction of opposites helped by their tastes in boys being different. Violet is in love with Lincoln, a young man of 22 or so who has helped her train in various sports for the past 2 years. Lincoln has held back from any more intimate relationship up until now, for reasons that unfold later, to Violet’s hurt. On Violet’s birthday, she meets Phoenix, a beautiful exiled angel, who pursues her while Lincoln’s behaviour is mixed.

Seventeen is a particular coming of an age for Violet as she must choose between a ‘normal’ human life and becoming a Grigori. Grigori are half-human half-angels who serve to protect humanity from exiled angels. Exiled angels are angels who used to serve humanity or who have been banished from their realm. Existing in human bodies has corrupted the best of them, and empowered the worst of them, so every exiled angel is a threat to humanity. The battle between exiled angel and Grigori is very physical, with Grigori being murdered, while angels are given a choice – become purely human or ‘return for judgement’ (have their human form killed).

Embrace introduces a series of books somewhere between Terry Brooks’ Word and the Void and Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Angel series, with a romance/drama focus. Not one vampire is present, although the author throws in a sassy comment about ‘their’ (men? Supernaturals?) fascination with a girl’s neck. Violet is not a passive player in the drama that unfolds; she is an active participant even when she struggles with choices and makes mistakes. Embrace is a coming of age story, with themes of love versus lust, predator versus self-protective behaviour worked into the story without ever appearing to preach to the reader.

I’d like to see more of the characters other than Violet and her men in the story to create the balance of a team as in Buffy and Angel. I’m also a bit tired of heroines who are supposed to be gorgeous and big breasted. The breasts are emphasised when it comes to discussing clothing and looking ‘hot’ on dates, but never the downside of big breasts and jogging or rock climbing.

Embrace will be enjoyed by those who relish paranormal romance and is well targeted to its teen and young adult audience. Not suitable for younger readers.

This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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