Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

21 July, 2012 Reviews 11 comments

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Shadowfell by Juliet MarillierShadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Series: Shadowfell #1
Published by Knopf on September 11th 2012
Pages: 410
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-half-stars

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.

There is something ineffably magical about Marillier’s novels.  There are precious few authors, in my opinion, who create as earnest a fantasy environment replete with mysticism and magic as Marillier does.

I feel a little embarrassed and ashamed.  I was desperate for this book.  After loving Wildwood Dancing and Heart’s Blood with a fiery passion, I was sure I’d adore this one too.

The first thing that you should know about Shadowfell is that it’s not as much the same ilk as Wildwood Dancing and Heart’s Blood. It’s closer to her Daughter of the Forest series in tone and story telling though less adult. The second thing you should know is that the pace and story telling of this novel is even slower than that of Daughter of the Forest. If you’re not familiar with Marillier’s prior work then you will need to consider where the aspects of Lord of the Rings series in which Sam and Frodo were walking to Mordor were something you enjoyed as a reader.  If they weren’t then I would highly advise you give this a skip.  In fact, if you’re not a fan of walking in general then give this book a skip – there was a lot of damn walking in this book.  A LOT.

Whilst the prose and characters and suspense made up for a lot of the stagnation in plot – it didn’t always feel enough to carry the novel enough for me to give it four stars.  Neryn’s character in particular gave me great pause. Marillier’s female protagonists are often strong, capable, wise and dignified.  That’s just the way she writes them and I love her for that.  But Neryn lacked the spark of personality, of substance that I usually enjoy.  She has no real flaws – unless you count not being able to trust a man who she has no reason to trust (I call that common sense).  Perhaps she has a whole breadth of character that we haven’t seen yet.  I don’t know.  This novel doesn’t afford her to show much since she lives in a constant state of survival mode.

Over all, I would still pick this novel up over a whole host of novels, but for a Marillier novel, I felt a tad let down.  I’m hoping the next in the series shall rectify that and contain a great deal less walking.

Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy
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11 Responses to “Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier”

    • Kat Kennedy

      @AnimeJune: I haven’t read Heir to Sevenwaters – but the first book, Daughter of the Forest was quite slow.

      That doesn’t translate across all her books though.

  1. Addie R.

    I’ve actually never heard of this author until I came across Shadowfell. Maybe I’ll like it more than you did since I’m not familiar with her work.
    Great review!:)

    • Kat Kennedy

      @Addie R.: You might! Give it a go. Marillier is still brilliant – even if this didn’t meet my expectations.

  2. maia

    i loved Wildwood Dancing, Heir to Sevenwaters (but i think book two might be too emotionally draining!) and im about to start Cybeles Secret. i said all that because even if Shadowfell is slower than Sevenwaters i know im going to have to read it. like you said, its a Marillier novel- i cant not! maybe i’ll just save this book for a lazy day (huh!) when exams are over. and to anyone who hasnt read her work yet- your missing out! her talent lies in her characters and gorgeous prose and even if your reading spans a few weeks, by the end of the book your left feeling very happy (and somewhat bittersweet) about having read it.

    • Kat Kennedy

      @maia: Yeah, I actually didn’t entirely get that ending feeling here. Neryn story is far from over and there’s a lot left unresolved.

  3. JAG

    Nice review. You might hate me for saying this but it’s at least as good as the ones where I laugh like a banshee at the pictures and (minimal) text.

      • JAG

        @Kat Kennedy: I think these reviews are your best. However the other type have a certain notoriety, which might be preferable? When you write reviews like this I learn something, and while I adore funny, I swoon for serious!

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