“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 for doing so remain unclear. As Neryn struggles to trust her 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.”
Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors for myriad reasons, but the one that summarily expresses why I love her writing has everything to do with her uncanny ability to weave spells with words, transporting me to the vibrant world her characters inhabit; without fail, she leaves me longing for more time spent in their company. I should have known better, then, and experienced not a moment’s worry when I felt myself being put off by Neryn’s repetitious exclamation of “gods” in the first couple of chapters. I should have trusted Marillier, because after firmly setting aside that pet peeve and moving forward I was rewarded with a wonderful, absorbing read that sang quietly in my blood after reaching its temporary conclusion.
From early on it’s clear the story being told is the surface of a very deep well, one that Marillier descended to the bottom before she began writing Shadowfell. Imparted to the reader is the sense that she knows the lay of the land, the history and mythology beyond what’s presented on the page at hand, and as a result the world-building is seamless. Rich with layered details, I might have been treading the rough, uneven ground beside Neryn, experiencing the perils of the landscape with her, that’s how tangible the world was.
I’ve not read all of Marillier’s books, not yet, but based on those I have it’s evident her heroines share similar traits: strength, determination and compassion chief among them. Neryn fell in line with those that’ve come before her, demonstrating wisdom beyond her years and enviable courage. I liked her very much, as I did several secondary characters, most of them being Good Folk Neryn encounters on her journey to Shadowfell. And then there’s Flint, who quickly won a spot next to Red and Stoyan as a favorite Marillier hero. He’s…he’s…classic Marillier. Tortured and steadfast; stealing quietly into your heart and making his home there. Here’s a little taste of him, because I can’t help myself:
“There is a choice. You are weary; now is not the time to speak of it.” After a moment he added, “You have a long road to tread before you are well enough to travel again, even accompanied. You don’t like it that I am the one you need to keep the wolf from the door; that comes as no surprise. But I am the one you have. At some point we’ll both have to risk telling the truth.”
I sat down with Shadowfell, promising myself I’d read one hundred pages before setting it down to get on with other things I wanted and needed to do. You can imagine what happened: one hundred pages turned quickly, and I thought, fifty more. So went my evening until I’d read the entire book without pause. And now I’m left to eagerly and impatiently wait for Raven Flight‘s July release.