Shadowfell – Juliet Marillier

The first installment of a planned epic fantasy series introduces Neryn, carelessly gambled off by her drunk father, and won by Flint. Soon after, her father is killed, leaving Neryn alone in the world and at the mercy of Flint. This is not a kind world. A cruel tyrant began his rule around the time Neryn was born. He outlawed magic and uses Enforcers to kill, capture, or maim those who oppose him. Her brother and beloved grandmother are among the king’s victims. Neryn has been on the run for years because she can see the “Good Folk” just one of her special abilities that make her wary of strangers who would easily turn her over to the king. Perhaps she can trust Flint who seems to only want to protect her and see her safely to the north where it is rumored rebels are hiding. But who is Flint and why is he really being kind to her?

Following the basic epic fantasy formula, Shadowfell is an acceptable entry. However, the book is lacking strong supporting characters and is slow in many parts. Neryn’s thoughts are spelled out over and over. She spends the entire book being conflicted – about Flint, about her future, about Flint, about her power, about Flint. We get it, the guy is complex and Neryn has good reason to not trust him. Books written for children and teens typically have a bit more of the story devoted to explaining in detail how the characters feel. However, there is a fine line between helping the reader understand the characters and writing down to the reader. Teens who read lengthy epic fantasy typically are avid readers who don’t need to have their hand held to understand the characters and plot. Perhaps all this explaining is necessary to lay down the background for the books to come in this new series. I did enjoy the book and think teens will like it as well – I already know which students to recommend this book to. This has the potential for becoming a good fantasy series for teens who are patient with this first book.

NetGalley review Publication date 9.11.12

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