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Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier Book Review – “Nowhere is safe. Not for your kind, not for our kind, not for anyone. In this benighted realm, all is turned to darkness.”

Title: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Author Info: Bio | Website | Facebook Fan Page
Publication: Sept 11th 2012 by Knopf Books
As we came down to the shore of Darkwater, the wind sliced cold right to my bones...
Story Arc: Series, Book 1
Hardcover: 416 pages
Age Group: Teen, YA
Genre: High Fantasy
Excerpt(s): pgs 11% + 99%
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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.
Review: I’d heard of Juliet Marillier of course. Luckily for me, I began reading Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier with a fresh perspective and virtually no expectations, making it quite simple for me to love this book, though I didn’t do all the work. If you’re going to read a questing fantasy novel, read one by Juliet Marillier. Because unlike some of the more verbosely written novels out there, with excessively lush depictions that can get very tedious very quickly, Marillier’s Alban is described with just the right amount of rich prose to make the world vibrant and easy to imagine without courting tedium. And in spite of the plot being primarily focused on Neryn’s journeying on foot, I was never bored. Sharp winds and treacherous passes coupled with the creeping tension and fear of capture, as well as many rocky encounters with mischievous beings, propels the fantastic structure of the plot. So, I ask you, would you give a frak that the girl is merely walking the whole time?

Two things I’ve seen mentioned as qualms for Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier are Neryn and her relationship with Flint, her mysterious on-and-off companion along her journey. Neryn shouldn’t be written off so easily as just an eyerollably sympathetic, angelic, do-gooder. For me, Shadowfell and Neryn’s goodness are about the struggle and difficulty behind ever attempting to do the right, honest, generous thing. And, though Neryn does her best, she still has a lot to learn about people, forgiveness, trust, sacrifice, and duty, and she is gradually taught the hard way. She is more than just the mistrustful, intelligent, naïve young girl from the beginning, and slowly, continually evolves into someone who can learn to be the hero the people will need. As for the mysterious, suspicious, stoic companion Neryn finds herself reluctantly attached to, the connection she shares with Flint builds following an agonizing pace. They’re both highly distrustful, yet they find themselves timidly slipping out of their armors while not quite aware of their doing it. Flint needs salvation; Neryn needs reliability and loyalty, and with this first book alone, it’s quite evident that the two will be able to give what the other is missing with time. Their romance is the kind of quiet, steady-building tension that bursts in a subtle explosion to carry us through the wait of their next encounter, the kind of relationship that rejuvenates.

Then, there’s the atmospheric and thorough writing involved in the story. Descriptions aside, even though the harsh, possibly evil king is never physically introduced, the reach of his cruelty and terrible power permeates Neryn’s journey with tension that is almost palpable. I will say that I am slightly disappointed that this king is only an elusively fearful presence, but the power and skill Marillier wields makes itself known in the mood alone. I also appreciated the depth of her research, her inclusion of fantastical elements such as magic, sorcerory, and the Good Folk which each possess a vivid, dimensional quality that makes them seem ancient, timeless. In Shadowfell, Juliet Marillier takes simplistic, common concepts and gives them an edge, writes them in a way that makes it almost unique without reaching a groundbreaking level. This is what makes it great, as it’s comfortably familiar whilst maintaining a memorable uniqueness. It’s that that makes Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier more than just a book, but an immersive, imaginative story alive with magical vibrancy that can be seen and felt so clearly, it’s quite incredible.

Most Likely to Be Enjoyed By: This is Scottish medieval high fantasy, guys and Gaga. It’s bound for awesomeness by default. My research says, however, that if you’re a long-time Marillier fan you won’t be as likely to fall in love with Neryn as she’s not the strong-willed heroine you might be accustomed to. That being said, impressionable non-fans might have an easier time meshing with this book, and enjoying it for what is as opposed to drowning in unfulfilled expectations. If you’re into perilous quests, an evolving heroine, a slow-paced romance, and beautiful world-building, then I can’t find fault with recommending this book to all lovers of fantasy.

Content Warning: There is a brief moment of sexual harassment, but nothing overwhelming. There is some violence that eventually progresses to the visibly bloody and painful stage, as well as death.

Blog Rating: Perfect Bed Partner
In the most inappropriate way you can imagine (or can't), PBP books are the books you want to tangle in the sheets with they're so bloody brilliant.

Goodreads Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quotes/Scenes:

“The wolves howl,” put in Long Fingers.
“The winter bites,” said Red Cap.
“King’s men come with cold iron,” said the crowlike being. “They seek out our hidden places.”
“I know that, and I am sorry for it. If it were in my power to help, I would. But all I can do right now is follow my own path.”
“You will be cold.”
“Hunger and thirst will walk the road with you, every step.”
“The wind will chill you. The rain will soak you. Your shoes will break apart.”
“Many trials lie before you.” Even the woman in the green cloak had joined in now. “You will be tested to your limit.”

I thought of blood and death. I thought of courage and honor, pain and sacrifice. I had seen all of them on my journey. I had seen comradeship, vision, selflessness, patriotism. I had experienced friendship, goodness, love. Despite everything, they still existed in the dark realm that was Keldec’s Alban. “I’m ready,” I said. “Ready to be strong. Ready to take risks. Ready to learn.”

  1. The Book Smugglers
  2. Bunbury in the Stacks

  1. Seraphina
  2. Throne of Glass
  3. Shadow and Bone
  4. Vessel
  5. Touch of Power

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Also, I'd like to know if you find it hot to get it on with the enemy?


John Jacobson said...

I've debated whether I should start this or not - and I think your review gives me hope. I haven't read Marillier yet, though, so all of the reviews I read were more on the negative "she's done better, but this is still fun" end. Glad to see that, for a new reader or a more YA-focused reader, it's more enjoyable, lovable. Lovely review, as always. :)

Candace said...

Oh geez, I want to hit the buy button NOW! Scottish medieval high fantasy?! I desperately need this one! And its absolutely terrible that I haven't read her yet. I may have read one years ago but I don't even remember for sure.

Annette Mills said...

Really excellent review. I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I enjoyed this book, and I pretty much agree with everything you said. Thanks!

Bailey Hewlett said...

Loved your review of this one! :) I've seen this one around but have never given it much thought until now. I love the idea of a Scottish Medieval high fantasy!

Ash @ Paranormal Indulgence said...

Candace - I don't know why your comments always get lost, but I'VE BEEN READING THEM. And you must read this book. Marillier is has a huge fanbase, but it's good you haven't read her yet so that you can go into this unbias and fresh like I did. I think it's easier to enjoy that way!

Princess Ash said...

See, that's what I think is going to help you enjoy this book even more. You have no preconceptions or necessarily high expectations because you've read her previous books. It's much easier to fall for a book when you go with the flow, which makes me happy I hadn't read her other books prior to this one. I think anyone is capable of loving it! And thanks <3

Princess Ash said...

Thank you, Annette! <3 YOU'RE NOT A BIG FANTASY FAN? Sweet cheese and rice, this is a serious problem. But it IS yours to live with ;P And though I might pretend otherwise for the sake of gracious acceptance, I love it when I'm agreed with so this makes me happy. I'm so glad you're a fan!

Princess Ash said...

*bows* Why thank you! I can see how this one could get overlooked, but trust me it's such a good fantasy book. I had no trouble discarding the fact that she's really traversing through the land the whole time because the journey and people she meets are so fascinating! And it's Scottish for crying out now! It doesn't get any better than that. I hope you enjoy it!

Megan Likes Books said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I read it as well, but I found it way too depressing for me. So many bad things happen or have happened.

Robyn Lloyd said...

Lovely review! I will be reading this one soon. The cover of the book is also amazing. I just finished another book that I love called, "Quest for the Lost Name" by author George Makris. This a historical fiction novel that is a romantic adventure wrapped
into a mystery in which the main character must go through personal
growth and transformation. http://questforthelostname.com/

Princess Ash said...

Depressing? well... I guess it could be. But there was so much adventure and friendly faeries and mysteries! There's a lot of good to balance it out!

Princess Ash said...

Thank you. I think you should, and I want to smooch that cover. And it's nice to see you that you enjoyed a book recently. :)

Aylee said...

Yes, I loved this one, as well! I, too, went into it as a Juliet Marillier virgin and I think that's a good thing because I also got the impression that it wasn't the favourite of her hard core fans. This is SUCH an amazingly detailed review and you describe Marillier's writing and story very accurately - seriously good job. I'm definitely interested in returning to Neryn and Flint's story. I just adored them together!

Princess Ash said...

Let us share a *fist-bump* because I feel there are too few who are giving this book the credit it deserves. Such a majority of her hardcore fans make this one sound less than it is, even though they claimed to have enjoyed it, and so it makes me mad that some peeps are pushing it aside for later or not at all. IT'S SO FLIPPIN' GOOD. And THANK YOU. It was important to me that I really get across all the good this book had to go and emphasize that there were little to no flaws with me so I'm glad you perceived that here. AND AHHH, NERYN AND FLINT. That ending was... perfect for them, though agonizing for us ;D

April C said...

I'm a long time Marillier fan and I was TOTALLY in LOVE with this book, but it's also been awhile since I'd last read Marillier.

Lovely, lovely, lovely review! <3

Heidi said...

Muahaha, if you found the pacing of Flint and Neryn's relationship agonizing I just can't WAIT for the torture you will endure reading Daughter of the Forest. And really, you MUST read it. You're right though, being such a fan of her other heroines did make it hard for me to love Neryn. I have high hopes for where this series is going though!

Princess Ash said...

Aha, so you see my point! I cannot tell you how many reviews I've read that all generally say the same thing, coming from MOST Marillier fans ;) I'm happy we can fangirl over this one together, because it is one of my faves of the year :-) Thanks, April <3

Princess Ash said...

GREAT, HEIDI. You're not helping this situation and your SCARING ME. Each one is a companion book, though, right? Because I don't know if I can take it prolonged! I know you're one person that liked it and is looking forward to future books, so I hope Neryn wins you over. I hate to be all alone in loving her ;) As soon as I get some dinero, I'm going to shop for Daughter of the Forest because my library, sadly, is slacking :(

Heidi said...

Yep! All of the Sevenwaters books are companion novels. There is an overarching plot, so you need to read them in order, but each book works as a stand alone and focuses on different characters. :)

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