Author: Juliet Marillier
Published: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Series: Shadowfell #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
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“She went on because there was no going back.”My Thoughts
― Juliet Marillier, Shadowfell
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. (Goodreads)
Shadowfell was fantasy at its finest. It's been far too long since I've read such a wonderful fantasy. I have yet to read any of Juliet Marillier's other books, but now I really want to read the Sevenwaters series (especially since I've heard such positive things). Shadowfell was written beautifully, and I savored every word. I fell in love with the land of Alban, despite all of the hardships the people endure in such dark times. I loved the names of the landmarks and bodies of water, from the mountains called the Three Hags to the town called Corbie's Wood. For me, it was reminiscent of Tolkien's Middle Earth.
As for the world building, I had no complaints. I felt as if I was walking in Alban along with Neryn. We're given such a complete, vivid picture of the dire straits people are in. Almost everyone in Alban is distrustful and suspicious of others. They would turn someone into the Cull, a murderous army of the king's enforcers sent on a rampage each fall, for a mere reward. The Good Folk are forced into hiding, along with those who have magical gifts they've inherited from a fairy and human union sometime in their family's past. Only the king's inner circle is allowed to practice magic, and the king uses his Enthrallers, or mind-scrapers, to turn rebels into obedient thralls. The suffering and darkness of King Keldec's rule is evident, but there is also some good left in this world. Along Neryn's journey, she finds people who she can trust and who help her along the way. Most importantly, the Good Folk are a constant presence and she finds friends where she least expects them.
I loved the fairies in Shadowfell because they weren't the usual gorgeous fey. They were of all shapes and sizes, and one was vastly different from the other. Some had feathers or beaks, and others looked like a bush creature. There were huge fairies that reminded me of trolls guarding a bridge, and then there were fey who were rock creatures. It was so refreshingly new, and I was happy that the fey were mysterious, creepy little creatures hiding everywhere rather than unnaturally beautiful beings.
The character development in Shadowfell left nothing to be desired. Neryn was a lovely heroine, and I found her to be such a strong character. Yet she has such a dark past, and it takes her some time to forgive and move on. I thought her hesitation in trusting anyone was believable after everything she's been through, especially since Alban is far from a peaceful land. There's little romance, but the little there is is so touching, and I can't wait to see it develop more in later books. Flint is far from the usual romantic interest, but I loved him. This romance doesn't need the usual banter or flirtation. It is simply two people, who have lived through some hard times, slowly starting to trust each other. It's a struggle for these two, but everything is in this land. I wouldn't have bought their romance if they had immediately trusted each other and showed interest from the start.
I'm excited for the sequel and cannot wait to read it! I have no idea when it will be released, and I wish it was now! If you are a fantasy lover, I definitely recommend Shadowfell. But if you're aren't into books that focus mainly on a character's journey across a world, as I am, then you may not love it like I did. All I know is that it's definitely one of my new favorites!