The story starts like something out of a fairy tale: I hated my stepfather.
–Robin McKinley - Shadows - c.2013
Read a sample
Shadows is set in an alternate world, one where the Newworld has eradicated all magic, and the risks they feel it brings. Magical families have been gene-spliced and teenagers are regularly tested to ensure that no magic user might slip through. This is a world where the word magician is a bad word. Not like Oldworld, where Maggie’s stepfather is from, there magic and magicians are everywhere.
And from the outset Maggie does not like her stepfather. On their first meeting he creeped her out with the shadows that seemed to loom around him. Has he brought something with him? And if so how did he manage to cross the border?Ever since I read Sunshine I’ve been a fan of McKinley. I loved that book, and I got a lot of echoes of that in this one. The alternate, not-quite-our world. The magic mixed with the mundane. The female first person central character. The importance of family.
But at the same time it is a very different book, and it probably isn’t fair to compare the two at all. But if you did enjoy Sunshine then you might want to give this a go.
Back to Shadows.
I’d have to say that it took me a while to get into it and its world. I think that it is a book that rewards the time you spend with it. I was reading in quick snatches at first, and I think my experience of the book then suffered, but once I got a bit of time and really got stuck into it I adored it. I love Maggie as a character. She is a teenage girl, one who has lost her father, and who doesn’t like the new man in her mother’s life. All very real and easy to understand. And even before the magic begins to make its presence felt her story was an engrossing one for me.
Also there are dogs and dog care, and origami and paper folding. And boys who may be a romantic interest, or may not. And don’t worry, it never turns into a “love will save the world” sort of story. It is a thread in the plot, not the whole shebang.
But it isn’t as good as Sunshine1 It almost spends too long getting to know Maggie and her dog. And when the magic element does kick off it seems a little rushed. So not a perfect book, but one that I’m glad I read.
I know I *did* say it wasn’t fair to compare the two ↩