Hardcover, 410 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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.
Shadowfell is the first Juliet Marillier that I have managed to read despite trying out one of her adult fantasies earlier. I prefer my fantasies a bit grittier, a bit dirtier and less stylized. A bit sexier too, actually. Not that I am a great judge of Marillier’s work having only partially read one book. However, Shadowfell sounded like something right up my alley so I gave it a try.
And I found it interesting. Perhaps not the best in terms of YA fantasy but certainly readable. Presenting a strong heroine, an interesting narrative and interesting creatures that present curious facets of the mythology. So, my reading of this book was from a post-colonial perspective. These humans come from somewhere and colonize this land, disregarding the species already living there. The king is a tyrant, outlaws magic except for a select few that he can use to further his own ambitions. Then there is wholesale slaughter of anyone who displays any sort of extra skill. The genocide is disturbing as it was meant to be.
Anyway, Neryn is likeable. She is “the one” and all and so forth. Ah, I don’t know. I was rather “meh” throughout the book. I mean, I liked it but it was so…boring in a sense? And then comes the bit when Flint finally confesses about his skill to her and she freaks out despite the foreshadowing, despite the hints he has been dropping, despite all his self-loathing being evident. Gosh, the overreaction and the melodrama were totally over the top. There was also this cringeworthy part at the end of the novel where one of the fae creatures is listing out Neryn’s awesomesauce qualities and I’m rolling my eyes. Seriously, just no. That was awkward and embarrassing and it should never be done.