Unhallowed Shadows by Stefanos Kottas (Chronicles of Archytas, Book

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Unhallowed Shadows by Stefanos Kottas (Chronicles of Archytas, Book

 Angels, demons, vampires – they all make good fodder for storytelling. We, as a race, have always been obsessed with mythological beings said to interact with humans. Even as the years roll by and advance our scientific knowledge and technology, we spin new tales of monsters, saints, demons, warriors, holy powers and infernal strength. To keep ourselves company in a world that seems increasingly small, we take old origins and revitalize them.

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Stefanos Kottas does just that, revamping the storyline of vampires to provide them with new meaning and new terrific powers in Unhallowed Shadows, the first book of the Chronicles of Archytas. Kottas takes Templars and advances them into an age of information and reason, takes prophets and prophecies and updates them for the twenty-first century while still maintaining the mystic allure that makes up the heart of these stories.

Kottas’s world, however, is not merely our world with such supernatural elements superimposed. Instead this world seems to have moved along a different historical timeline, one where the two World Wars were instead a “Fifty Years’ War,” where Hitler had a son and Washington, D.C. was at some point destroyed and rebuilt as New Washington. Technology is still the same, as the characters use cell phones and computers: one of the vampires is even a master hacker. Still, the differences are enough that the world Kottas established in Unhallowed Shadows is distinct from our own, but similar enough to interest modern readers.

The story ultimately centers on two protagonists, Erica and Marcos, though a varied cast of secondary characters make important appearances and flesh out the narrative. Kottas weaves a tale of two people shaped by their circumstances into meeting one another, even when that meeting seems more like coincidence than fate. Erica lends the element of the supernatural into Marcos’s life, and Marcos grounds Erica’s details and acts as a reader stand-in. It is Kottas’s skill, however, to hide significant details within plain sight: it is not until the very end of the novel that readers discover the truth behind a prophecy at the center of the plot.

The mythology that Kottas rewrites for Unhallowed Shadows is unique, one focused on individuals and their choices as opposed to the supernatural just existing. It is the choice of certain individuals that leads to vampirism, it is the choice of Erica to move between the lines of two opposing paranormal worlds that invites tension and suspense, and it is the choice of Marcos to side with Erica against stacked odds that encourages readers to root for their side, even when they’re not sure exactly what side that is.

Morals in Kottas’s world are complicated, and that makes his writing much more nuanced than the black-and-white myths of old. Vampires can help people, orders of holy knights can make bad decisions, demons and angels can fall in love, and the people closest to you can turn out to be something you’d never imagined. These shades of gray force the characters into situations that show exactly what they are made of, allowing the reader to witness the aspect of all mythology that is ultimately central to Unhallowed Shadows – that of shared humanity. The gods sometimes fail, beings of extraordinary power sometimes devise bad strategies, good doesn’t always win, but all this boils down to the idea that very human struggles are at the core of every instance of paranormal activity.

Kottas’s Unhallowed Shadows would be an excellent read for anyone interested in The Mortal Instruments series, or from anyone who read Twilight and finds its conception of supernatural creatures lacking. Yes, there is romance, yes, there are vampires, but Unhallowed Shadows is much more than that. It’s a story about how people deal with the struggles they face, be it fighting an Ancient or mourning the loss of a loved one, and how those struggles shape the person they become. Such a story is certainly worth a try, and Unhallowed Shadows is such a story.    


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