Author: Jenny Moss
Page Count: 377 pages
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review.
50 words or less: Shadow don't get no respect. She's the shadow of a queen who hates her, enamored with a knight who doesn't know she exists, and she might just be the only person who can save the world from sure destruction.
You know, I kind of feel bad for Shadow. It had the misfortune to come up in my reading queue right after Brightly Woven, which I found to be magical, beautiful, romantic delightful. Shadow is a different sort of book entirely, and while there were elements of the story that I found intriguing, I just didn't connect with this book the way I'd hoped I would.
Shadow, by all accounts, has had a really crappy life. She takes basically nonstop abuse from the people around her at the royal palace, has no friends or allies to speak of, and, when she does deign to have an opinion or an original thought, experiences such fantastic adventures as being locked in the dungeon. Shadow, needless to say, does not feel any particular loyalty to anyone or anything, least of all the queen she's supposed to protect or the country that queen represents.
Enter Sir Kenway, a terribly noble and loyal knight who doesn't like the queen all that much but has an almost fanatical devotion to her and her office. Shadow admires him from afar but gets pretty much nothing but condescension and judgment from him. This is the hero and heroine, mind you, so the fact that they seem to not get along was a barrier to me seeing the relationship develop.
Not only does Shadow have to deal with nonstop attacks on her integrity from Sir Douchebag...I mean Sir Kenway, she also has to deal with multiple jaw-dropping revelations about not only her own family, but her own past and her role in the ruling of her country going forward. Shadow's lack of enthusiasm about all of this is palpable throughout the book, and, frankly, her disinterest in the political games of the people around her is pretty understandable. I mean, she's a teenager, coming out of an abusive situation, and nobody can seem to understand why she doesn't want to MAN UP AND SAVE THESE PEOPLE. I probably would have left them to rot too if I'd been in her shoes.
There is an interesting side plot to the story involving who Shadow's mother actually is and how Shadow came to live in the royal palace, but it was lukewarm at best, as was the information about the religious facets of this nation and the role of religion in maintaining peace and prosperity in the land. The romance, when it did develop, was kind of ugly; Sir Kenway was a mean, judgmental, spiteful, bitter idiot most of the time, and the fact that he didn't really warm up to Shadow until it became apparent how important she was did not endear him to me at all. When she was a lowly servant of the queen, she was an ignoramus who should be grateful for receiving so much as a scrap from ye olde royale table; when her role as powerful woman who just might pull their collective fat out of the fire is presented, suddenly, he's all attracted to her. Not cool, Sir Kenway, not cool. I don't care how sweet your final scene is.
The most memorable thing about this book for me was the crushing sense of responsibility that seems to follow Shadow around throughout the book. She's responsible for the safety of the queen because of some dumb prophecy. She's responsible for everything that goes on around her. She's responsible on a god-and-sovereign level for the safety and well being of an entire country. All of this happened without her consent, without her knowledge, without her awareness in most cases. Shadow does the right thing, sure, but I found the ending to not be as satisfying as I'd hoped, and I feel like even after shouldering these tremendous burdens, Shadow still ends up with nothing in the end.
I've read lots of positive reviews for this book so I know there are definitely people out there who liked it and enjoyed the story and the romance and all that; I really wish I could count myself among them but sadly, I can't.
Overall Grade: D