Book Tour Review: The Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Title: The Color of Light
Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 580 (ARC edition)
Published: October 31 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 4.5/5

NEW YORK CITY, 1992. At the American Academy of Classical Art, popular opinion has it that the school’s handsome and mysterious founder, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire. It is a rumor Rafe does nothing to dispel.

Scholarship student Tessa Moss has long dreamed of the chance to study at Rafe’s Academy. But she is floundering amidst the ups and downs of a relationship with egotistical art star Lucian Swain.

Then, one of Tessa’s sketches catches Rafe’s attention: a drawing of a young woman in 1930s clothing who is covering the eyes of a child. The suitcase at her feet says Wizotsky. Sofia Wizotsky, the love of Rafe’s life, was lost during the Holocaust.

Or was she? Rafe suspects Tessa may be the key to discovering what really happened.

As Rafe finds excuses to interact with Tessa, they cannot deny their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction forbidden by the Academy Board and disapproved of by anyone familiar with Rafe’s playboy reputation and Tessa’s softhearted innocence.

But Tessa senses the truth: despite his wealth, his women, and his townhouse filled with rare and beautiful treasures, Rafe is a haunted man…for reasons that have nothing to do with the rumors they whisper about him at school.

Intensely romantic and deeply moving, The Color of Light blends fact and fantasy in an unforgettable tale of art and passion, love and war, guilt and forgiveness, spanning the New York art scene, high-fashion magazine publishing, the glittering café society of pre-World War II Paris, and the evil stalking the back roads of Nazi-occupied Europe.

This book was beautiful. It was a pleasure to read. Finely crafted, well-written, featuring an original and atmospheric plot, not to mention the cast full of realistic, engaging characters. With a deft hand and an eye for detail, Shankman ably creates a fascinating story that combines art, Nazis, and vampires with aplomb. Her story is a bit different from other historical fiction and it is all the better for the author's daring.

While reading The Color of Light, I was, in a way, reminded of Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel The Historian -- both feature strong female leads in a story concerned with history and introduced to the supernatural as a result. Tessa is fairly innocent and naive about life and love in 90's New York City, but she has life to her. Through her exploits at the Academy, through her growing involvement with the dangerous and mysterious Raphael Sinclair, she grows, learns, and changes immeasurably from the less assertive girl she started out as.

As great as Tessa was to read, she is far from the only well-developed character to be found in The Color of Light. The wide group of friends that surround her pop from the page - Graham, David, Portia, Graciela..... each one has life, a personality, and are identifiable. Raphael Sinclair is a bit of a problem since I find his and Tessa's complicated history to be a bit ick-inducing, but as a vampiric romantic interest, Shankman sells it.

There is a remarkably easy flow to the story, despite its density of pages and depth of detail. Despite her relative infancy as an author, Shankman is a talented writer. Her writing is atmospheric, lively, and engaging. Her descriptions about art, and an artist's passion for creation is incredible. This is a book that made me want to be a struggling artist in 1990's NYC. As someone with little to no artistic inclination, that is a hallmark of strong writing to my mind. 

The novel shifts between the modern storyline -- Raphael and Tessa at his art school -- and the one set during the 1930s/1940s. Both storylines hold up equally well, but shift from 3rd (present story) and 1sr (when Raphael tells his story in Part Two) perspective. Though POC switching is a pet peeve of mine, it's handled well here. The 3rd person allows for a wide view and detail, but the first person makes Raphael's story more intimate and emotional.

Nowadays, with the omniprenece of vampires, it's impressive to read a novel that still manages to use the bloodsuckers well. I would never have expected so much from a novel that is about Nazis and vampires, but Helen Maryles Shankman has created a must-read here with The Color of Light.


  1. Jessie--this book sounds amazing! Romantic and inense and vampires, too? I love it, I must read it asap! Thanks so much for your review, I hadn't heard of the book at all before this.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  2. OH, this sounds like an amazing book!! It's soumds gorgeous and haunting and WANT. WAAAANT. Vampires aren't dead after all! (Heh SEE WHAT I DID THERE oh God I shouldn't comment in the middle of the night anymore)

    Anyhoo, brilliant review, as I must now track down this book. Curse you.

  3. I'm so excited about all these fantastic reviews - they make me want to run out and get a copy of this book right now!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  4. Yeah, I pretty much agree with all you've said here. I did have trouble distinguishing her friends though. I don't usually do well when there are a ton of side characters so it might be a just me thing. But I did love this and I'm so glad you did too!

  5. Oooh, I am totally sold on this one, Jessie! Well-developed characters is pretty much enough, but I also love books that jump between two time lines (weird, but whatever).

    Also, I hate when blurbs are that long. It's exhausting. #random


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