Monday, June 12, 2017

Shadowcaster - Review

Shadowcaster (Shattered Realms, # 2)

By: Cinda Chima Williams

Published: April 4th 2017 by HarperTeen

551 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)

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Goodreads description--Alyssa ana'Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn't pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.

Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series, this is a thrilling story of the unfathomable costs of war, the allure of dark magic, and two principled and conflicted characters, drawn together despite everything they stand to lose.

I enjoyed Flamecaster, but it wasn't without a few issues for me. So I was excited when I saw Shadowcaster for review. I put off reading it until closer to the publication date, yet as the date approached, I fell into a reading slump. The slump had me uninterested in most things fantasy related. I wasn't opposed to fantasy itself, but just that sometimes the genre focuses so little on character relationships due to world building and such. It's funny because I actually forced myself to read two very slow, and very un-character driven fantasy books before picking up Shadowcaster. I definitely wasn't in the mood for more fantasy after those books, yet I knew that I really needed to get this book read and reviewed since I was already past the publication date. Thankfully, Shadowcaster was a much more interesting and character read than the previous two books I read.

One thing I wasn't expecting (but should have been due to the book description) was that Ash wouldn't be a narrator at all in Shadowcaster. As a matter of fact, Shadowcaster goes back in time from where Flamecaster ended so there is an overlapping of time between these two books. As the description states, Shadowcaster primarily follows Lyss and Hal. Lyss is Ash's younger sister and now in line for the throne as Princess Heir. She's only 15 years old which feels very young to me, but I appreciate how Cinda Williams Chima treated her age is relative. What Lyss has experienced in her 15 years is very different from what teenagers face in our culture. Hal is a Captain in the army for the enemy, Arden. But his father has recently been on the outs with King Gerard, and Hal is taking the punishment for that in that King Gerard seems to be trying to have him killed by placing him in impossible situations. Hal is eventually captured as a prisoner of war and over an extended period of time is exposed to Lyss not knowing that she is Princess Heir of the Fells.

Lyss and Hal aren't the only narrators. Jenna from Flamecaster does play a role and she does narrate a few chapters. She's the biggest tie in that we have to the previous book. There's also a narrator named Breon who seems to be from the same place as Jenna originally. These two have a path that appears to be tied to each other although they've yet to meet. And there may even have been another narrator or two, but I can't remember. These four are the key players though. If you read my review of Flamecaster, you'll remember that I said this type of narration style isn't really my favorite. Typically, I don't mind dual narratives as long as the characters a following the same general part of the story, but when we begin to add on more and more narrators whose pieces of the puzzle are seemingly unrelated I tend to struggle, or at the very least I find it much easier to put the book down when a narration swap occurs. Having finished two books in this series, I see why Cinda Williams Chima chooses to narrate in this manner, but that doesn't mean I always enjoy it as much as I could. Especially early on in the book when the pieces of the puzzle feel so far away from each other.

I will say that this might be a coincidence, but I saw a lot of naming similarities between Shadowcaster and the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. I don't know if this was perhaps done on purpose as a nod to ASoIaF, or if this was an accident where the author's subconscious took over, or maybe it is just a coincidence. There was a Littlefield (Littlefinger), Breon (Brienne), Alyssa (Lysa), I can't remember the character's name in SC but it reminded me of Tommen, and I remember telling my husband of a place mentioned in SC that had a similar name too, but I didn't write them down at the time so I don't remember. This isn't a huge thing. Just something I noted.

Favorite quotes:

-We are a land of orphans, Lyss thought, doing the work of dead parents.

-"I always think that if I tell the truth, people can't help but agree. When they don't, I lose my temper and everything goes south from there."

-"...we need to let go of what we have been doing and take a chance. If we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always gotten..."

-A civil war has no winners, only losers, and is to be avoided at all costs.

Shadowcaster was better than I was expecting due to the mood I've been in and the previous two books that I'd read immediately prior in the same genre. Lyss and Hal's storyline was the most interesting to me and kept me coming back for more. I truly hope that we get more of them in the next book, but I'm afraid that might not be the case if book 3 follows an entirely new set of main characters. I had a few small issues like the narration style making it easier for me to put this book down and the similarities to A Song of Ice and Fire names and locations. In the end, Shadowcaster gets 4 Stars. Have you read Shadowcaster? What did you think? Let me know!

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