AUTHOR: Juliet Marillier
SERIES: Shadowfell #1
PUBLISHER: Knopf Books
Note: An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
As a fan of Juliet Marillier’s previous novels, I was ridiculously eager to read this first instalment in her new series. Magical, adventurous and romantic – though at times slightly sluggish – Shadowfell is a satisfactory addition to this veteran author’s works.
For me, Marillier is one of the very few authors I have encountered that can create a true fantasy, not the one-layered dribble that often constitutes the genre these days. I love that the magical elements in this novel are the drive behind the plot – not the romance – and how they are most importantly original. Yes, I suppose we have heard quite a lot about the otherworld lately, but Marillier chooses mythology that somehow makes the book feel magical rather than sparkly.
In terms of audience, Shadowfell is perhaps more directed at the younger readers rather than adults, though the writing still retains a tone not dissimilar to her Sevenwaters series, being that it is sometimes dark and deeply rooted in the otherworld legends. The plot in itself contains everything I would have expected of Marillier, though one thing that really let me down was the pacing with which it was executed. In basic terms, it was slow; almost unbearably at times. Instead of devoting perhaps a chapter or two’s summary of Neryn’s solo journey, we are treated to over one hundred pages of her plodding along at a snail’s pace, constantly complaining about her declining health and the emphasis of not being seen. There is a lot of this in the book, and if you detest reading pages and pages of walking and waiting then I highly recommend you do not pick up this book.
On a better note, I found that the quality of the writing and prose certainly made up in part for this problem, as did the randomly interspersed events that hinted at the build-up of something exciting. A highlight for me was the supporting fey characters, particularly the Good Folk and Hollow. The discovery of Neryn’s true abilities and how they are intertwined with the Otherworld was truly fascinating, and I sincerely look forward to seeing how this develops in the sequel.
Unfortunately, this leads me to another fault – Neryn. Whilst she possessed all of the basic ingredients for a young adult heroine, I found she lacked that special something that really sets apart Marillier’s other female protagonists. I have come to expect certain qualities from this author’s characters, namely determination, strength, wisdom and compassion. And though Neryn had sufficient quantities of these things, she was missing a…spark that would have made her a memorable heroine. If anything, she was a bit bland – no real flaws to speak of, yet no discerning traits either. This I why I am hoping that we come to see a new side of her as her magic progresses, and for all I know she could turn into everything that I could hope for.
Perhaps a shade under her usual standard, Shadowfell is an engaging new novel from fantasy author Juliet Marillier. Though I would still pick out this writer over a host of others, I can only hope that the next book in the series will restore her to her rightful reputation in my mind.