Shana Galen is one of those authors that I tend to forget about. When I look at her publication list, I realize I’ve read all of her books. Although I can’t recall a single detail, it’s an overall positive impression. That’s the case with the Sons of the Revolution series as well. On your left, a young orphan working as a governess is forced into life as a spy, where she discovers she is destined to be a Duchess. On your right, a young orphan is forced into life as a governess where… ok, that’s not exactly fair. But that’s the thing about a Shana Galen book. It’s easy to fault them on the details.
The strongest section of both books is the prologue. When Julien and Armand are escaping the siege of their home the events are immediate, cinematic and relatable. Those sections of the book are up there with Joanna Bourne’s work. In both cases, she has set up an excellent canvas. The eldest and his young mother escape the mob, leaving her husband and younger sons behind to face certain death. Awesome! (Ok, maybe not awesome, exactly… but c’mon! One kid wakes up to flickering lights on the ceiling. It’s like riding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney, but with actual terror!) Afterward, established in London and rich again, Julien’s mom seems kind of sad. All the time. Those are the emotional stakes of the subsequent action. Sure, Julien keeps slipping in and out of France looking for his brothers. But the emotional repercussions of their experiences are not deep and traumatic. This is not angsty romance. Armand, who spent a decade in a solitary confinement, goes from mute and feral to resentful sibling fairly quickly. At one point Armand challenges Julien “You treat me like I am an idiot!” Dude. You’ve been refusing to speak, wear shoes, or handle utensils. You wanted he should give you a medal, maybe? Julien responds that Armand has no idea what it cost Julien to keep searching for him. I guess Armand thought Julien found his way to France and infiltrated a prison on a lark, because Armand is all hmm, good point.
Of course, as easy as strolling in and out of the prison is, perhaps Armand can be forgiven his error. By the time it’s his turn, he heads off to his former cell (guess he forgot his toothbrush) with less thought than I use to walk up to the corner for milk. (Here’s another easy swipe – a spy in England knows where Armand is being held, but everyone in the prison has no idea who he is and all the people looking for him on the outside have no idea where he is, and the criminal element in France has no idea where he is… how does the spy guy figure it out? If Armand is mute, who told his jailers the name Armand?) I could easily break these books down by missed opportunities, but it would miss the point. I enjoyed them. Do I think Shana Galen could really write something astonishing? I don’t know. She has some great characters, she has some great situations, but the execution of them is enjoyably rote. The genre equivalent of the popcorn movie. You can see everything coming long before it hits, the clues to future events are clubs with kleig lights attached. It’s the getting there that’s the fun. You can settle down, have a read, and enjoy it. You don’t need the collectors dvd afterward, it’s just Tuesday night and something to do.
I will probably read everything Shana Galen ever writes. I expect to forget who she is at least three more times in my life, but I will still have that good impression. She’s a fun evening, but not the girl I want to marry.
Edited: In 2015 I updated this post to reflect that these two books are now sold as a bundle with the third.