Date Read: December 1 - 8 2013
Date Published: July 21st 2012
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: High fantasy
"The people of Alban are afraid.
The tyrannical king and his masked Enforcers are scouring the land, burning villages and enslaving the canny.
Fifteen-year-old Neryn has fled her home in the wake of its destruction, and is alone and penniless, hiding her extraordinary magical power. She can rely on no one – not even the elusive Good Folk who challenge and bewilder her with their words.
When an enigmatic stranger saves her life, Neryn and the young man called Flint begin an uneasy journey together. She wants to trust Flint but how can she tell who is true in this land of evil?
For Neryn has heard whisper of a mysterious place far away: a place where rebels are amassing to free the land and end the King's reign.
A place called Shadowfell.
A story of courage, hope, danger and love from one of the most compelling fantasy storytellers."
I think choosing Shadowfell as my first Juliet Marillier book was a mistake. I’m told I should’ve started with her Sevenwaters series. I was so excited when I was asked to review this because I could finally read something by Marillier. However, it’s taken me over a year after reading this to finally review it because I barely have anything to say about Shadowfell.
Neryn is a 15 year-old who can apparently see the Good Folk, a trait that either gets people in the Kingdom of Alban killed or recruited and used by the tyrannical king to exact cruelty and inflict fear on its people. So Neryn runs and tries to remain hidden. She aims to reach Shadowfell to aid the rebellion with her skills. I can’t say much about Neryn’s character. She wasn’t amazing. She didn’t stand out. She was just flat. Quiet and shy, trying to stay hidden she sort of went about everything hesitantly and with doubt. I don’t know, I feel that a 15yo protagonist with such a weight on her shoulders is just a bit much. I saw no strength or determination to her and those attributes are, in my opinion, key to a successful YA high fantasy heroine.
The majority of Neryn’s journey is spent alone, interspersed with some appearances by the Good Folk who aid her journey despite her reservations. As a result I can’t say there was much of a supporting cast. For me, this made the story a bit dull as the Good Folk didn’t have a lasting impression on me.
One presence though was Flint. He’s the mysterious man who keeps saving her but seems to have his own agenda. I really liked the intrigue of his character although I could easily guess who he was. I aim eager to hear more about his history though as he’s quite a conflicted character.
What’s a YA high fantasy without a little romance? I liked how the romance was in the background and was very slow to develop and not at the forefront of the story. It made Neryn’s journey the focus which was the most important thing. This could have foregone the romance and Marillier would have still delivered.
My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. A snail’s pace. It made it seem like the story never moved on. There is walking. And walking. And walking. And more walking. Barely anything happens but this incessant amount of walking. There’s like self-discovery and stuff at certain points but coupled with the exceedingly slow movement I just couldn’t wait for this book to end. I just needed something to happen and nothing ever did. The walking never really built up to anything spectacular. Maybe this improves in the next book?
Marillier has a lovely writing style and her world-building is detailed, filled with lush descriptions and entrancing words. However, it just wasn’t for me. The way words were strung together were too much for me – I couldn’t concentrate properly and it made the slow pace of the book drag even more because I thought there were a lot of unnecessary words that hindered the story’s movement and progression. It’s fantasy style writing which I usually adore but for some reason it just didn’t work for me.
While I can see the potential for this series and why people love Marillier, this book wasn’t for me. I had too many problems with it and it was just so boring. There I said it. What this review amounted to – this book bored me so much I nearly DNF’d it. But I did and I WILL try Raven’s Flight because I have hope.