Once again I have to thank @danzibooks for this recommendation. She truly is a must follow on IG and now Threads.
Ah boy, this author and her books.
Whitney Hill books are an automatic pre-order for me. I follow her on social media, send her random messages, and overall I am invested in her work and her books. So if this one gets a bit gushy, you know why.
When I first met Arden, the main protagonist in the Shadows of the Otherside series, I did not like her. In fact, for maybe a dozen or so pages, I thought the book was going to be a DNF.
Let me explain why.
Generally, I tend to read about female main characters who jump off of page one with a sword, daggers, or offensive magic that makes them instant bad-asses. Then, as time passes, they learn to soften up, open up, and, you know, create a found family instead of being lone wolves. That is the type of book I am most likely to read. Actually, when I first started Shadows of the Otherside, those were the ONLY type of books on my tbr list. The idea of going down any other road was anathema.
Enter Miss Whitney Hill and her Arden.
In her world, Arden is maybe at first half a hop above the mundane humans who do not know that the Otherside and the elves, shapeshifters, witches, djinns, vampires, and so many more that live within it, exist. She has some magic. However, she is owned more or less by the scariest woman in the area. A woman she has to answer to, she has to work for, and who in all honesty has been abusing the hell out of her, her entire life. As I said, not really my cup of tea.
Two things happened that made me keep reading.
One, Arden is a private investigator. And in that realm, she is like a dog with a bone. That beaten up side to her disappears once she is on a case. Thank goodness, a fresh case is how the book starts, and for me reading about her natural curiosity, which works against her self preservation instinct, drew me in.
The second thing, is what locked me in and made me a staunch fan of Whitney Hill and Arden. After a long day, Arden wanted to come home and wash her hair. Arden presents as black (terminology used like that on purpose) and has thick coiled hair that she knows she cannot just wash at night and hope for the best the next morning. Whitney’s description of that moment, the way she broke it down and was true to every aspect of what it meant to deal with black hair, is something I had never seen in a book thus far. Some people mention it, gloss over it, but the way it was detailed, caught my full attention, and has not released it since.
Miss Hill is the type of author I wish I could go back in time and share with my teen self. To have someone write about the actual intricacies of living and being a woman of color to this level opens up something inside of you, as a woman of color. It told me that going forward, I was going to see and experience, through Arden, other truths that would resonate deeply within me.
And WOOOOOOO I was so right!!!!
The hair description was just a meagre taste of what was to come. The more I read, the more I understood about this author and what her place was in the literary world. Her voice is a needed one that is crucial to us all, not just people of color.
Because what Whitney Hill does better than most of her contemporaries is nail the nuance of being a person of color, especially one whose power and rights have been stolen. Maliciously stolen at that.
She illustrates clearly, without spite or overt dramatics, the truth of living while of color in a society that does not want you there, but is more than willing to use all of your talents and gifts to its benefit. A society that is willing to suck all it can out of you for their gain, as it simultaneously convinces you of your unworthiness. She skilfully captures that weird and discombobulated feeling of being taught that you should be grateful that you are allowed to exist, yet seeing people take so much that is of you to make their lives better and stronger.
Shining a light on that duality in a way that is accessible, understandable, even while it paves a path to redemption. Not a simple path, but nonetheless, a way forward for everyone.
That is the talent of Whitney Hill. Delivering bitter truth and true justice without malice. She is teaching, sharing the other side of the coin for people who cannot speak, and sharing it freely with those who are ignorant of such pained realities.
And lucky us, we get to read it all!
None of this is done overtly or harshly. It is all spun into the tale of Arden becoming a fierce protector and warrior for her people. All in a world where Atlantis existed, gods still interfere, and where the main male character is the bad, very worst of guys. Or is he? (Read the series to find out for yourself!)
Another plus to her writing is the way she allows us to see and understand the actions of all the characters and the reasons they are how they are. Even the main villain.
Also, I cannot say it enough. Whitney’s world building is fantastic! You might think including so many factions might be overwhelming, but it truly is not. She makes it all work, and work in a way that pushes you to dive headfirst into each book.
I love her work. She is an independent author/publisher who is changing mindsets one line at a time. She is someone who will always have my support, and whose books I will never stop reading.
Hopefully, she is also someone who will never stop writing.
You can purchase all of Whitney’s books directly from her, click here, or find her on Amazon at the link below.
Read her books and visit her website here. I promise you will never regret taking that walk into her Otherside.