Juliet Marillier,
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)

Neryn's homeland of Alban brims with magical fairies, stonie mons and other creatures. Unfortunately, King Keldec has been systematically taking control of all Alban's magic by turning it, and those who wield it, to his personal service for life. Anyone who cannot be converted is ruthlessly stamped out. Neryn, with her gift of seeing the fairy folk, knows about running, about hiding and about the perils of trust. What Neryn does not know is if Shadowfell, the fabled home of a resistance force, is real. Yet, between the enemies that hunt her and the mysterious strangers who help her, Neryn becomes determined to make her own resistance count. After all, battling Keldec's oppression involves far more than a place.

Shadowfell includes many of the most recognizable themes concerning magical lands, tyrants and discovering personal strength. Juliet Marillier manipulates them into a modern, edgy atmosphere that balances the story's tension against its familiarity. The result is a story where the small events draw you in and keep you engaged despite the plot's overall predictability. It may be the type of story you've read before, but here it feels less like following a cast who knows they're in a story and more like experiencing unsettling emotions applicable to real situations.

The personalities of Neryn and Flint center the story. The relationship between the hunted girl and the mystifying man grows in complexities and questions as they near Shadowfell. Seen through Neryn's eyes, the dynamic is easy to empathize with and the shifts in the relationship are realistic. Marillier deftly uses the relationship to illuminate the issues Shadowfell discusses. Best of all, she does it without trying too hard.

Akin to a cross between the Tiffany Aching books and Legend of the Seeker, Shadowfell serves up a journey for those who like their protagonists to think. For those who prefer lots of action or more light-hearted magical quests, this book might be a bit heavy.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

20 April 2013

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