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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: The Shadow Reader

Title: The Shadow Reader
Author: Sandy Williams
Page Count: 469 KB (320 pages)
Publisher: Ace
Genre: urban fantasy/romance, first in a series
Copy for review was purchased by me

A Houston college student, McKenzie Lewis can track fae by reading the shadows they leave behind. For years she has been working for the fae King, tracking rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn't her only secret. She's in love with Kyol, the King's sword-master-but human and fae relationships are forbidden. When McKenzie is captured by Aren, the fierce rebel leader, she learns that not everything is as she thought. And McKenzie must decide who to trust and where she stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

Stop the presses, people.

You all know about my pretty intense dislike of love triangles/rectangles/shapes of any kind, right? How they'll pretty much kill a story for me the minute that they make their angsty presence known? Well, I can officially say that that unfortunate event did not happen as I read The Shadow Reader.  The romantic tangle in this story helped to support an engaging, vivid read that left me eager for the next book at the end and rooting for our heroine from page one.

The backdrop of the story is a bloody, bitter civil war between factions of the Fae and is based on old grievances about trading rights and self determination.  Both sides are deeply entrenched and not prepared to stop fighting until the other side has lost; our heroine, McKenzie, is initially on the side of the Fae monarchy due to the fact that she works for the king.  After she's kidnapped by the rebels, she finds herself having to answer some difficult questions about her involvement with the war and how little she actually knows about the issues and the fighting.

McKenzie also has two dreamboats about to set sail- one is Kyol, the king's swordmaster, and one is Aren, the leader of the rebels.  McKenzie has been carrying a torch for Kyol for an embarrassingly long time and it's pretty clear that he has tingly feelings for her too, but any kind of romantic involvement between humans and fae is expressly forbidden by the king, who happens to not only be Kyol's boss, but his best friend as well.  Fae and humans who decide to defy that decree end up among the rebels, and that's where Aren comes in.

Aren is pretty much everything that Kyol isn't- spontaneous where Kyol is methodical, passionate where Kyol seems reserved, and the fact that he's fighting for a diametrically opposite cause pretty much seals the deal.  Owing to the fact that he's got no love for the king, McKenzie's humanity isn't an obstacle for him, and neither is the fact that she's in love with someone else.  Aren sets out to win McKenzie by showing her that she could have so much more on his side and wouldn't have to be a secret like she would be with Kyol.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that one of these guys is much more emotionally available than the other (can you guess who is who?) and McKenzie is a smart girl and realizes that.  The conflict comes from her having to decide how she fits into the civil war and whether her principles can allow her to keep doing what she's doing, and in resolving the tension that erupts after her kidnapping where Kyol finally blinks and realizes that he could lose her permanently and very easily at that.

The descriptions and the tension and the drama in this book are top notch, and while I had a definite preference for who McKenzie would ultimately choose to resolve the love triangle business (hint: Mother always said, emotionally available is best) I could see how things could have gone another way.  I am definitely interested to see how things play out in the next book. The second book, The Shattered Dark, is due out October 30th according to Goodreads, so Happy Halloween to me!  In the meantime, The Shadow Reader is already on my best of 2012 list, so don't miss it for yourself!

Overall Grade:
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