When describing what I like about this story, it's hard to know where to start. The protagonist, Gabriel, is as good a place as any.
Yep, that's right, protagonist. Not hero. I'm no connoisseur of vampire stories, but I know what I like and what I don't. I like Gabriel. What appeals to me is Gabriel's honesty with his protege, Amanda. He doesn't hide anything from her...his nature, his motives, his intentions...and what Amanda is in for if she takes what he is offering. Those looking for another teen heartthrob story with vampiric trappings should look elsewhere. Those looking for a story about an unapologetic and psychopathic life-eater have found their story.
Although Gabriel is arguably the central protagonist of this story, it wouldn't be complete without Amanda. After Amanda is forcefully brought into a new world, her journey is an enthralling study of human nature. Many of us would say that we'd never succumb to the lure of real power. All I can say after watching Amanda's journey is...OK, believe that if you will, and personally, I don't think real power is quite so easy to deny.
I had to read the story a couple of times to get a solid feel for all the characters and sub-plots therein. There's quite a bit to chew on, and per another review, there are an awful lot of parties interested in Gabriel's latest game. Quite honestly, there are many characters and communities who could easily be fleshed out in stories of their own. While Gabriel is arguably a powerful player in the Aether Vitalis setting, he is still but one player in a complex game on a large board.
In fact, that is the closest thing to a gripe that I have about Scent and Shadow. There is so much going on, with so many players, that at times I find it hard to keep track of. However, it is this same trait of the story that keeps me coming back for more, re-reading this or that paragraph or chapter so I can discover new nuances in the narrative and setting.
My only real regret is that this story isn't yet out in a nice big hardcover edition that I can read and re-read until the binding falls apart!