Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Series: Shadowfell #1
Published by Knopf
Published on: September 11 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill--a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk--Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.
During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death--but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.
This book . . . was underwhelming.
For the first 100 pages, I was bored out of my eyeballs. It took me THREE DAYS to read this book. B/c BORED. Three days to finish a 400 page YA fantasy. On the bright side, I was very productive blog-wise . . . b/c I couldn’t make myself read . . .
I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but I typically LOVE Juliet Marillier. One of my favorite books of all time is a book by Marillier (Wildwood Dancing), and I’ve very much enjoyed several of her adult fantasy series as well. So I was expecting this to be a sure thing.
It picked up a bit after those first 100 pages, and I did enjoy the depictions of the Fae as a fractious band of Labyrinth-type creatures, but ultimately . . . it all felt very . . . average.
A tyrannical king has practically snuffed magic out of the world, except for his own private use. A girl with a powerful gift has lost her entire family b/c Tyrannical King. A man-boy in a cloak rescues Girl, but is he trustworthy? Girl ditches Man-Boy to travel to Rebel Base that Girl isn’t sure really exists, b/c it’s only spoken about in whispers. But Man-Boy manages to find Girl over and over again.
Blah, blah, a thousand times BLAH.
And Neryn (Girl) is a very young heroine, both in age and temperament. The blurb says she’s sixteen, but unless she had an unremarked upon birthday somewhere in the book, she’s only fifteen, so there’s a lot of character growth going on. But it’s the timid second-guessing, early adolescent type of character growth. The, “Can I trust him? I can’t trust him. Maybe I can trust him. I’m starting to trust him. HE BETRAYED ME! Did he betray me? He definitely betrayed me. Maybe he didn’t betray me. I LOVE him,” type of character growth. *bangs head against wall*
Then at the very end (of course), it’s Epiphany Time!
Suddenly Neryn works her way to all the conclusions you’ve been screaming at her throughout the book. And yeah, better late than never, but b/c of the earlier back and forth, you don’t really trust that it will survive the next teen-aged bout of jumping to conclusions, misunderstandings, leaping before you look, etc.
So all of that was frustrating.
BUT . . . it wasn’t all bad. I adored Flint (Man-Boy). He was an incredibly complex character, and beyond that, he was a character that I could admire. He has chosen to live his life for the the greater good, he lives with the consequences of that choice, and they are dire. I might have a
fanatical mild case of hero worship . . . I can’t say for certain, but . . . it’s a possibility . . .
Aaaannnddd . . . we all know how bloodthirsty I am—I OWN IT—but . . . I don’t want to throttle Neryn for being reluctant to KILL THEM ALL.
“Why not?” you ask.
Well . . . b/c this is the place where Marillier’s brilliance finally shines through. Neryn is hesitant to kill others, not b/c she’s preoccupied with the state of her soul. Not b/c she’s having a pity party knowing that once she begins, her life will inevitably be filled with darkness and death. No . . . Neryn is hesitant to kill, b/c through Flint she sees that the king’s men are just men. Men fighting on the wrong side, but just men, nevertheless. And she is desperate to find a way to help the rebels that doesn’t involve the mass slaughter of men.
I have no doubt that if it comes down to it, she’ll make the hard choice. But Marillier so ingeniously lays the groundwork for Neryn’s internal struggle, that even I—violent urges and all—do not cry out for these men’s blood.
So not my favorite book, but not a total loss either, and I have it on good authority that book 2 is infinitely better, so I’m not ready to give up just yet. Onto Raven Flight I go. *lowers voice ominously* But beware my fury, if I am disappointed . . .