Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Posted August 27, 2014 by Jessica in Fantasy, Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 30 Comments

Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Series: Shadowfell #1
Published by Knopf
Published on: September 11 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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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.

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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 wasn’t.

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.

*tips hat*

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 . . .

Books in the Shadowfell series:

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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30 responses to “Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

  1. Boooooooo to underwhelming! *puts confetti away* And being bored out of your eyeballs *giggle snort* during the first 100 is NEVAH a good sign my friend!

    I know you and I think you do indeed have a fanatical case of hero worship! *snickers* I might have to add this book to my TBR just for Flint. Seriously. BUT I’m definitely adding Wildwood Dancing to my TBR as well because when you save FAVORITE…I listen and listen well. ♥

    Sorry the book was underwhelming and as always…a beyond fabulous review Jessica! 🙂
    Cristina recently posted…Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

  2. “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*”

    *dies laughing* Those types of characters drive me absolutely batty Jessica, so I think I’ll stay away from this one for now. I’m glad this story wasn’t a total bust though, and some of this author’s brilliance did finally shine through even though it took a while. I still need to read something by her, so maybe I’ll go back and try your favorite:)

  3. Well I hope #2 is infinitely better! Having to suffer through a blah read is bad enough…but when it’s from one of your favorite authors. Gah! Here’s to hoping your current read is outstanding OR to more blog productivity. Nope, I’m really hope you’ve got a good read! 😉

  4. I have heard such amazing things about Juliet Marillier and her books so I’m really surprised to hear that it was boring. But it happens with fantasy books so yeah I understand. I’m really glad you didn’t give up and that you continued with it. I can see that this one has some flaws but still it sounds really interesting. Great review, Jessica 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (#110)

  5. I really don’t have time for these type of reads right now, nor the patience. That sounded awful huh?

    I think this is definitely one of those reads where you need to be prepared for it, flaws and all before beginning it.

    Wonderful honest review Jessica!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week

  6. I have yet to read something by Marillier, but based on everything I’ve heard about her, I’d have expected this to be anything but boring. However, it DOES sound like a story we’ve read a million times before, which certainly doesn’t work in its favor. I think I’ll find something else of hers to read.

  7. Mogsy from BiblioSanctum  

    Wait, Juliet Marillier wrote a young adult novel? I’ve never read anything by her, but I have several of her adult books on my to-read list. I’m not sure I want to sit through a whole lot of “blah” though, so I’m going to stay the course and leave this one off for now. I’m glad you’re such a fan of her adult books though, that’s promising for me 🙂
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier

  8. At least you were productive!! Haha . Shame on me for not reading a marillier book yet. I want to and I love faery tales/retellings but I’m scared for a possible let down. Sorry to hear the 1st 100 pgs were so boring

    Lovely review, Jessica

    Ps. I’m quite liking storm front (Dresden files) right now. A 3.5 so far
    Roro recently posted…WOW #12

  9. Amber Elise  

    Eh, I think I’ll skip this one. Neryn sounds likes she’s 13, not 15(or 16?). But yay for Flint, at least you had one interesting character! Better him having values then just being there for Girl to lust over!

    Your reviews always crack me up Jessica!

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

  10. Well, I will await your veredict on book two before deciding if I add this series to the TBR pile or not, because after your review for this one, I’m quite tempted to just ignore it. Loads of back and forth doubt and angst is terribly annoying for me, and if it gets to the point of banging your head against a wall, I don’t think I want to subject myself to that!
    Great review Jessica!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #57!!

  11. Oh Flint sounds great! But well if you were bored I think it would be the same for me. I already had a book like that last week… It’s too bad this one wasn’t as good as the others you tried by the author..

  12. Juliet Marillier! I’ve got a couple books of hers on the shelf of shame – Daughter of the Forest and Wildwood Dancing. It’s not that I don’t want to read them…it’s more the fact that reading a 400 page book in 3 days would be considered pretty dang fast for me! But every review of a Marillier book always talks about how she’s such a great writer, so I’ve gotta get on it! Here’s hoping that this series improves because I’m not gonna lie, I really like the sound of this Flint guy. 😉
    Danya recently posted…Tough Traveling: Towers

  13. Michele from A Belle's Tales  

    I love that you hung in there even though the first 100 pages were a snooze-fest! I have a very hard time quitting a book. Even though it wasn’t your fave, at least it wasn’t a complete loss… and hey… productive blogging — silver lining! I am either in reading mode or reviewing mode. I wish I could make them occupy the same space. lol Thank you for the honest review, Jessica!
    Michele recently posted…Early Review: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

  14. Good for you for being a trooper and continuing on. I have to give props to any book that curbed your blood thirsty ways. I bet you are just waiting for the blood shed in book 2 where you will yell “kill them all” or “off with their heads” or…well you get the point. I hope book two doesn’t disappoint. 😉
    Ginny recently posted…Book Review and $20 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway: The Child Returns (Aerenden #1) by Kristen Taber