Series: Shadowfell #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on September 11 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
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.
Despite a bit of a slow start, I wasn't disappointed by Shadowfell. I expect a certain level of prowess from Juliet Marillier - after all, her Sevenwaters series is one of my all-time favourite book series. She's truly a master of fantasy and the worlds she builds are close to seamless. I wasn't quite as enthralled by Alban as I was by Sevenwaters, but it surpassed most of what is out there nonetheless.
Neryn started the book as a timid young girl, unable to stand up for herself against her wreck of a father. She's been through some really tough circumstances, including the absolute devastation of her family and home, leading her to wander the land with her father for three years, hiding from the King's shrewd and often cruel Enforcers. It's not exactly a happy or prosperous life, but it's what Neryn has been allotted. Slowly Neryn becomes a more self-assured person, learning more and more about her fate and the choices she has to make.
I also loved that she didn't obsess too much over the nature of her and Flint's relationship. She did spend a lot of time thinking about him, but I think that the reasoning for that is definitely justified. There was no instant attraction or romantic angst. They have a hard enough time developing a tense friendship. I like it when things burn slowly over the course of multiple books. It's more satisfying.
One of the strongest parts of Shadowfell for me was the Good Folk. My favourite was the brollogan, Hollow. He was really interesting to read about, and his introduction was a nice change-up from the sometimes slogging pace (Neryn does a lot of walking, which can get a tad boring at times).
I really have nothing else to say about Shadowfell except that I can't wait to get my hands on Raven Flight!