Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Shorty Synopsis (Goodreads): Its name is spoken only in whispers, if the people of Alban dare to speak it at all: Shadowfell. The training ground for rebels seeking to free their land from the grip of the tyrannical king is so shrouded in mystery that most believe it to be a myth.
But for Neryn, Shadowfell's existence is her only hope. She is penniless, orphaned, and utterly alone - and concealing a treacherous magical power that will warrant her immediate enslavement should it be revealed. She finds hope of allies in the Good Folk, fey beings whom she must pretend she cannot see and who taunt her with chatter of prophecies and tests, and in a striking, mysterious stranger, who saves her from certain death but whose motives remain unclear. She knows she should not trust anyone with her plans, but something within her longs to confide in him.
Will Neryn be forced to make the dangerous journey alone? She must reach Shadowfell, not only to avenge her family and salvage her own life, but to rescue Alban itself.
This first novel in a new trilogy from enchanting fantasy author Juliet Marillier is a captivating tale of peril, courage, romance, and survival
My Review: I am a huge fan of Juliet Marillier. When I saw that she was coming out with a new series, I immediately knew that I wanted to read it. When I saw it was available on Netgalley I jumped for joy. When I actually got approved to read it... I literally gasped! I was so excited.
Then I started reading. While I could feel a certain immersion in the world and story that I normally get from Ms. Marillier's lush and descriptive writing, I wasn't able to feel for the characters as much. Yes, Neryn hasn't had a perfect life, pretty hard actually, and she has her faults, but usually there are some endearing qualities that help me like the characters despite their flaws. Not so much in this case. I felt that Neryn was really, really weak and though she protested that she could take care of herself, everything proved to the contrary and she was CONSTANTLY having to be taken care or saved, whether by the Good Folk or by humans. Yes, she had a special gift that would be of great use, and people told her she could do great things, but she didn't believe them. But when she did believe them it felt kind of prideful to me. Random, but that's the feeling I got.
And while I hope for love interests in all of my books, this one felt forced. Yes, she has a special gift, but she's a colossal weakling but you find her attractive and will spend so much time on helping her? And even though they were spending all of this time together, they couldn't really get to know one another because they both had so many secrets to keep and so things weren't progressing at all! It was kind of frustrating.
But I pushed through because despite my not liking Neryn and being annoyed by her weakness, the story was not the worst I had read lately and I wanted to finish it. At about 3/4ths of the way through the book, things start to pick up. Other characters are introduced and I could sense more complexities being introduced that will breath new depth into what was just surface stuff for the first part of the book.
While I did end up liking this book more than I would have at first supposed after starting, and I will definitely be picking up the next because I think it has the potential to be much much better than the first, and while I do really like Juliet Marillier, this seems to be another case of where her YA doesn't live up to the lushness of her other novels like the Seven Waters series. This one felt very much like a first book and was a bit difficult to get through, but towards the end (and it doesn't leave you hanging in any horrible way, which was really nice) as it starts to pick up and get other characters, I can see that it has a lot more potential.
Definitely worth the read, but you'll have to push through to the end. Lots of promise for what the series will hold though! This is Juliet Marillier after all.