Shadow Crossing
by Catherine Spangler, futuristic (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52524-0


There are some very obvious problems with continuity in this book. Shadow Crossing is the latest in Catherine Spangler's futuristic series (just do a search on the author's name for the previous books in this series) rely on one significant plot detail that really will never happen if I remember the Shielder lore correctly. In this book, the Crown Prince of Jardonia, Maximilian Rurickko Riordan, is traveling with his android Max and he pretends to be the android while Max pretends to be the Prince in order to escape some assassins. The heroine Celie Cameron is accompanied by the bratty teenager Raven who's a Shielder (for this review, all we need to know is that they're psychic empath types). Shouldn't a Shielder know right away that the android isn't an android and the human isn't a human?

Shadow Crossing refers to a dangerous quadrant of the galaxy where Celie is hoping to find some adventures. It could also refer to what the hero says is the dark side of human nature or something like that. In the author's last book Shamara, the evil Controllers are overthrown and peace and prosperity are in fashion again and everyone is happy... no, not really, as our hero, "Rurick", learns. He encounters Celie when he rescues her and the runaway brat Raven. It's bad enough that our supposedly-smart ex-smuggler space pilot is stupid enough to wander into dangerous quarters with no back-up, but here comes Raven running around and endangering everybody's lives. When stupid romance heroines want adventure, it's better and safer for everybody to just get them a bone.

What follows is the typical spacecraft romance thing. Like all of this author's books, however, the momentum breaks apart midway through the story and everybody soon behaves like spoiled kids in need of a spanking. I have to accept that Celie is a virgin who has never been kissed before and somehow just has to lose her virginity to an android whom she finds really hot. It's a really sad picture, if you ask me, but Ms Spangler treats this as if it's a glorious Virtuous Woman Losing It scenario. But before she can sleep with the "android", he reveals himself to be the Prince, upon which our heroine overreacts and even hits the hero (twice) because she has been Betrayed and This Is Humiliating. Sleeping with a robot isn't humiliating, but spending company with a man who lied to you is. There's something really wrong with this picture. The future is iffy. Rurik could have then bring out the sweet talk and apologies, but instead he acts like a total jerk, ordering her around as if she's his dog or something. He is a gallant guy previously, so this transformation to a silly fool is unconvincing and out of character. The whole thing seems like a desperate bid to introduce a conflict into the story, logic and continuity be damned. And our heroine, supposedly courageous and willful, solves her problems by running away again and again and again. Frankly, it's pathetic, they're all pathetic.

It is also disappointing to see how the author adheres to gender stereotypes even in stories set in some other galaxy. The men are the ones who make all the decisions, the women follow. In the midst of treachery and intrigue - not that these elements are well done in this story - the women are more concerned with "virtuous, feminine, moral" concerns like how they must save the androids because androids have "personalities" too. Men are allowed to be calculative and decisive, but the women are all hysterical psychics, empaths, and kooks preoccupied with pregnancies, ovulation, saving the kids, and loving their husbands and children. Princess Leia may wear a metallic slave outfit to sate sad loser fanboys' libido, but she defends herself and her people from Darth Vader and the ugly Emperor. If only Celie can be so fortunate.

Rating: 63


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