A faerie princess turned private investigator in a world where faeries are not only known to the general public, but are also fashionable, the title heroine is Princess Meredith NicEssus. As niece to Andais, The Queen of Air and Darkness, she is a royal of the Unseelie Court, however having fled the court three years before she has been hiding herself under the name of Merry Gentry and working as a private investigator for the Grey Detective Agency.
The story begins in Los Angeles, California, in a world where magical creatures are "out of the closet" and, in some cases, even legal. Princess Meredith NicEssus is working for the Grey Detective Agency under the assumed name of Meredith 'Merry' Gentry. When two women come to the agency with a story about fey-wannabes and rituals involving fey women, Merry goes undercover to investigate. However, she and her colleagues get more than they bargained for when it is discovered that the culprit is using Branwyn's Tears, an oil that can make a human into a sidhe lover for a night, and turn even a sidhe or a sidhe-decendant into a sexual slave.
In the process of solving the case, Merry's secret is revealed, and she finds herself being hunted by the Sluagh. Brought to see their King, Sholto, he offers Meredith a deal. Himself disapproved of by Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, because of his mixed blood, he proposes an alliance between the two of them. However, jealous at the idea of the princess becoming his lover, Merry is attacked by Sholto's harem of nighthags. During the fight Merry's Hand of Flesh is revealed when one of them, Segna the Grey, becomes nothing more than a ball of flesh.
Shocked, Merry tries to flee, only to find herself trapped. It is at this point that Doyle, Captain of the Queen's Ravens, appears. He announces that the Queen never sent the Sluagh out after Meredith, and that in fact the Queen meant her no harm. As prove of this he produces the Queen's sword Mortal Dread, as well as the Queen's mark, which he transfers to Merry in a kiss.
Merry returns with Doyle to the Court. There she is reunited with both friends and enemies. The Queen reveals that she wishes for her bloodline to continue upon the throne. For that to happen, she is willing to take as her heir whoever of Meredith or her cousin, Cel, can first produce an heir. She lifts the geas of celibacy upon her Ravens for Meredith alone, insisting that she choose at least three or even more in order to increase the chance of her becoming pregnant.
While this offer would permit Merry to end her self-imposed exile and return home, it also brings with it its own dangers. Cel, previously his mother's sole heir, makes several attempts upon her life. It is in order to gain support that Merry makes alliances with others such as Kurag, the Goblin King.
Finally, it is revealed that Cel was behind the Branwyn's Tears incident in LA, something illegal by current laws. In punishment, he is to be confined for six months after being coated with the oil himself, something akin to torture.
A Kiss of Shadows features the following major characters.
- Andais - Queen of Air and Darkness, Merry's aunt, the sister of Essus, and mother of Cel. Andais is a war goddess, and the sadistic Queen of the Unseelie Court. Her personal guard, called the "Queen's Ravens" is composed exclusively of men. Although she is a sadist and is widely believed to be insane, Andais appears to have the best interests of the Court somewhat at heart and has sworn to abdicate her throne in favor of whichever of Cel or Merry can demonstrate themselves capable of producing new sidhe children. Her consort is Eamon.
- Barinthus - A sea god and one of the Queen's Ravens, Barinthus is one of the most powerful members of the Courts. He has long been called the "Kingmaker" for his involvement in the selection of court rulers. He supported first Essus and now Merry for the Unseelie throne.
- Cel - Prince of Old Blood and son of Andais. His personal guard is made up entirely of women.
- Doyle - Captain of The Ravens, once the Queens Darkness now part of Merry's guard, and included in her many lovers, Part Sidhe, part Hell-Hound (Gabriel Ratchet, et al.), part phouka. He is a shapeshifter.
- Frost - Doyle's second-in-command. Often referred to as The Killing Frost.
- Galen - The youngest member of the Queen's Ravens and also Merry's best friend. Lineage is half-pixie and half Unseelie sidhe. Powers include subtle ability to have everyone like him. Extremely unpolitical, naive and idealistic, is voice of childhood reasoning for Merry. Unfortunately, letting go of those ideals is allowing Merry to survive.
- Jeremy Grey - Owner of the Grey Detective Agency, Trowe.
- Kitto - Goblin/ sidhe hybrid, given to Merry by Kurag as part of their alliance.
- Kurag - King of Goblins, Merry's ally. Was ally of Merry's father previous to his death.
- Meredith NicEssus/Merry Gentry - Title heroine, Princess, Daughter of Essus
- Rhys/Cromm Cruach - Raven, former God of Death. Film Noir buff. See Crom Cruach.
- Sholto - Lord of the Sluagh
- Siobhan - Captain of the King's Guard, Cel's right hand and personal Killer. Can kill with a touch.
Recurring characters include:
- Barry Jenkins - Human newspaper reporter.
- Black Agnes - Nighthag, Member of the Sluagh and Sholto's lover.
- Ringo - Formerly a human gang member, but turned fae after saving fae who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now works for the Grey Detective Agency.
- Roane Finn - Merry's lover and colleague at the Grey Detective Agency, a Roan or Selkie
- Segna the Gold - A nighthag and member of the Sluagh.
- Teresa - The Grey Detective Agency's resident psychic
- Uther - A Jack-in-Irons who works for the Grey Detective Agency.
Non-recurring characterrs include:
- Alistair Norton - Fae wannabe
- Eileen Galan - Lawyer
- Gethin - one of the Sluagh
- Frances Norton - Wife of Alistair Norton who approaches the Grey Agency for help with a death spell.
- Keelin - a Brownie who was Merry's childhood friend and is now Cel's lover.
- Lucinda Tate - Detective
- Maury Klein - Security specialist
- Naomi Phelps - Lover of Alistair Norton who approaches the Grey Agency for help
- Nerys the Grey - A nighthag and member of the Sluagh.
- Raimundo Alvera - Detective
The death toll in A Kiss of Shadows includes:
- Alistair Norton - Killed by being eaten by spiders
- Nerys the Grey - Killed by Merry when Hand of Flesh appears.
- Pasco - Died during attack on Merry
- Rozenwyn - Died during attack on Merry
- The need for Merry to become pregnant by one of her Guards.
- Faerie politics, particularly within the Unseelie Court.
- The development of magical abilities in Merry, formerly looked down upon for not possessing any major powers.