I have mixed feelings about this book. I was really looking forward to it when I first bought it, but then I put it aside to read books by Suzanne McLeod, and never got back to it. Recently I read an author interview of Jaye Wells, so my interest was poked again. Then I read an excerpt of the second in the series, Mage In Black and decided I needed to finish Red-Headed Stepchild and then read Mage In Black.
I finished Red-Headed Stepchild the other night, and would have started Mage in Black, but then I borrowed The Help from a co-worker.
Red-Headed Stepchild started out very strong for me, The heroine seemed pretty kick-ass and ruthless. Her grandmother is even more ruthless and thoroughly unlikeable. The Grand-Mama does not treat Sabina very well, because Sabina is a mixed race child, father was a mage, mother a vampire. In this world mages have black hair, and vampires have red hair, so Sabina's hair is an intriguing mix of black and red.
Sabina is a ruthless assassin for the vampires, her grandmother is on the head council. Grand-mommy gives Sabina jobs to do - assassinations. Sabina has been spending her life trying to measure up and impress Grand-mommi-dearest. I found myself impatient at how long it takes Sabina to own up to the truth of how Grand-ma really feel about her. I feel like it takes her way too long. This was frustrating to me as a reader. The book is first person narrative, and Sabina on one hand is showing how much Grand-mammy-dearest hates her, but on the other hand doesn't seem to quite see it.
Sabina is sent by Grand-ma-dearest to assassinate a vampire/man who seems to be uniting lots of other races against the vampires. This is another part where I feel frustrated because Sabina feels fear around him. From the beginning of the book, I had the impressions that she was pretty tough and fearless, ruthless and kick-ass,so this fear that she shows seems very out of character for her. Now I'm really frustrated because I don't like to feel like I'm analysing characters, or looking for motivations in a book. I just like to read the book and enjoy it, but found myself questioning actions and feelings of the main character.
On the positive side there are some pretty good fight scenes, and some entertaining interactions between Sabina and other characters, especially the mage that gets sent to connect with Sabina, and the demon that's been summoned to attack her. The dialogue is okay too, if a little heavy on irritated woman being rude to potential ally.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I was fairly frustrated with the character and felt like the amount of fear she exhibited didn't fit in with her character. Although it's possisble that the author was trying to show that Sabina is really vulnerable and her tough assassin exterior just a facade for a soft, lost little girl inside. I wanted to read about a totally tough character, a woman that is ruthless with lots of inner strength. But that's what I wanted as opposed to what the author was trying to convey. I did buy the second book, The Mage In Black. Now that I know what to expect from the character, I think I might enjoy it more than the first book.