A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{May 10, 2012}   Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Plot: Alban under King Kevan is a country where no one can be trusted and where saying too much can be deadly. The King’s enforcers scour the country seeking anyone with the slightest supernatural gift. Gifts such as Neryn’s. Three years ago the Enforcers came to her town. They killed her brother and destroyed her grandmother’s mind. Since then she and her father have been on the run. If anyone ever found out that she is canny, that she can see and speak to the Good Folk, it would mean her life. Her only hope for survival and for a better country is a place far to the north known as Shadowfell, a place that may not even exist.

This review is based on an ARC provided by Netgalley.

About ten years ago, I read just about anything Juliet Marillier wrote. I loved her Sevenwaters trilogy based on The Six Swans fairy tale and then moved on to her Light Isles Saga (Wolskin and Foxmask). She writes beautiful fantasy but at some point I lost sight of her. I was thrilled to find her new YA book on Netgalley.

I enjoyed this book as much as I did her earlier fantasy. It’s basically a classic hero’s journey. Neryn must venture far from home, overcome terrible trials and demonstrate seven virtues. She is not a warrior in any sense of the word but she shows incredible strength and fortitude in the face of horrible (and horrific) tragedy. She loses everyone close to her and this affects her deeply but I respect the fact that she can still show kindness and generosity, that she can still hope and move forward.

The virtue that is hardest for her, because of the life she has led and what her country has become, is trust. And this is where the other (and Good Folk aside, only) main character comes in. Flint’s introduction does not paint him in a good light and he is not exactly forthcoming with information about himself. Flint is fascinating because he is a contradiction. He protects Neryn and tends her with great tenderness. But he is also, for many reasons, the last person she should trust. Even I had trouble deciding whether he was a good guy or a bad guy (and honestly, it is so much more complicated than that).

The magical creatures in the book draw on Scotish and Irish mythology. The Good Folk Neryn encounters are interesting and diverse; I especially liked the brollachan Hollow, perhaps because he surprised me, pleasantly. The magic that Neryn uses is deeply tied to this mythology. I will not go into the details of her or anyone else’s powers, because that might spoil the story for you, but Marillier has created a subtle magical system that fits perfectly into her world, that has been twisted by the events of that world.

Shadowfell is the first in a series (of three I presume, three like seven is an important number in this type of story), the second book is tentatively entitled Raven Flight. The first book ends on a high point, at the beginning of a rebellion and after the introduction of many fascinating new characters. It made me eager to read more. I also look forward to seeing Neryn come into her power and watching her complicated relationship with Flint develop. But that is still a long while off. Shadowfell, meanwhile, will be released on September 11th 2012.

2012 (#46)


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