Author: Juliet Marillier
Genre: YA, high fantasy
Publication Date: September 11, 2012 (Random House Children’s – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: 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.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a solid YA high fantasy debut for Marillier!
Review: This one was a little hard for me to get through, guys. The writing was absolutely fantastic, but the pace was really sluggish, and that’s what took my score down. Otherwise, if you like high fantasy in your YA, Marillier’s a virtuoso in her genre for the adult world and she’s created a wonderful world for you to plunge into in “Shadowfell”.
I’ve read parts of some of Marillier’s novels before (her series are lying on Mr. Nook right now) – but that was a long while ago. I’d forgotten how Marillier crafts her book, and for me, it took awhile to get back into her style of prose in order for me to enjoy things. It’s not a bad style, but it’s a bit dense, and it unfurls slowly, letting you linger on things. For me, though, in this YA debut, I felt like in some places, we lingered a bit too long, and thus, the pace meandered between being too slow and too uneven for me to be patient with.
That, and much like in “Lord of the Rings”, there’s a LOT of walking that happens.
However, the rest of this book is crafted absolutely gorgeously. The world, the characters, the sensory imagery and language are all very rich, very detailed, and generally masterfully done. They all felt very, very real – the characters were well-rounded, complex, and sympathetic (both human and fairy), and the world was well-built and sturdy with lots of mythology backing it up. The sensory imagery brought Alban to life, as if I were there with Neryn making her journey right along with her.
So why only 3.5 stars? The dense prose, while very rich and lovely, along with the stuttering pace, really had my mind wandering quite a bit. I’m definitely going to be reading book two, and hopefully by then, I’ll be more used to the style used. “Shadowfell” is out now from Random House in North America, so be sure to check it out!