Review: Shadows
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ShadowsShadows by Robin McKinley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The central premise of this story is that the main character's new step-father, Val, has creepy, seemingly alive shadows surrounding him that only Maggie can see. These shadows make it hard for Maggie to relax around Val, or even look at him directly, which causes a great deal of strain on her relationship with her mother. The story grows from there, using the relationship between Maggie and Val as a microcosm for the larger conflict of science and magic in the world. The story was entertaining, and I enjoyed where it was going, but in the end, I feel like it left a lot of questions unanswered. In a lot of ways, it felt like the book ended where the real story was just beginning.

Characters & Voice:
This story had a very pronounced narrative voice. The main character, Maggie, is a teenage girl with a typically teenage view of the world. She was relatable, but not all that interesting or unique as far as characters go. Nearly all of the story was spent inside her head, with only brief interactions with other characters. Maggie's thought processes and recounting of events was smooth, but when there were scenes with other characters the dialogue tended to feel a little awkward. Maggie has two close friends, Jill and Takahiro, who go on much of Maggie's adventure with her. She also meets a handsome stranger, Casimir, who seems to know more about what's going on than he really should and provides an arc of romantic tension. Maggie's step-father, Val, starts out as a point of conflict in the story, and a lot of what happens involves forcing Maggie to get to know and accept him. She also has a mother and brother, though neither does much in the story.

Language & Mechanics:
There were lots of made-up words, which is fine from a world-building point of view, but were quite distracting at first as they were seldom explained. The book was a little slow to start, beginning with a lot of backstory to get the reader up to speed on Maggie's life. I enjoyed the details, but found myself thinking, "When are we going to get to the actual story?" The sentences tended to run a little long and be convoluted, giving the story a rambling feel that sometimes lost my interest. Where there were descriptions, they were good, and the author made excellent use of word choice and similes. I was occasionally knocked out of the story by the narrator speaking directly to the reader, and there was a lot of tense-shifting, which tended to trip me up. There was also a notable amount of missing or misused punctuation in this book that could have been avoided with a more thorough editing pass.

The world created in this story was wonderful and intriguing, but not well enough described for my tastes. McKinley left a great deal unsaid, or vaguely hinted at. There were many details that piqued my interest but didn't follow through. That said, McKinley's imagination is wonderful, and you can see that in the uniqueness of her world.

Digging Deeper (SPOILERS):

Maggie's area had been free of nazok for a long time, considered one of the safest places in the world. So what caused the nazok to happen there in the first place, and why on such a large scale?

At the end of the story, Maggie and her friends have infiltrated a military facility, fought soldiers, and freed two prisoners, yet no one seems concerned about getting arrested. Maggie's aunt Gwenda tells her that despite all that's happened they are safe. How can they possibly be safe? Whatever caused the nazok in the first place should still be a threat, and no matter Maggie's intentions or her aunt's position, Maggie and her friends still broke A LOT of laws. Why isn't anyone holding them accountable?

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