[Review] Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Published: 1 July, 2012
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Edition: Australian Paperback
Summary: “The people of Alban are afraid. The tyrannical king and his masked Enforcers are scouring the land, burning villages and enslaving the canny. Fifteen-year-old Neryn has fled her home in the wake of its destruction, and is alone and penniless, hiding her extraordinary magical power. She can rely on no one – not even the elusive Good Folk who challenge and bewilder her with their words.When an enigmatic stranger saves her life, Neryn and the young man called Flint begin an uneasy journey together. She wants to trust Flint but how can she tell who is true in this land of evil? For Neryn has heard whisper of a mysterious place far away: a place where rebels are amassing to free the land and end the King’s reign. A place called Shadowfell. A story of courage, hope, danger and love from one of the most compelling fantasy storytellers.”
I should preface this review with my love for Juliet Marillier’s writing. I have been a fan of her books ever since I picked up a second-hand copy of Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1). The way she built an intricate fantasy world and filled it with complex characters spawned my desire to write. In fact I wrote my one and only fan letter to Juliet when I was 15 years old. She responded kindly and told me to continue to write while also pursuing a career such as teaching or editing. Wise words for any young budding writing. I’ve gone on to read several of her other published works but my favourites are her young adult books: Wildwood Dancing and its sequel Cybele’s Secret. So needless to say when I learnt that Marillier was writing not one, but three new young adult books I was very excited.
From the very first chapter the reader becomes immersed in a corrupt world where magic has been suppressed, killed and forced into hiding while the King surrounds himself in a protection of the magic that he has sought to destroy. It is an interesting concept to think about. While Rowling’s magical world brought to life a dark group of wizards who wanted to use their powers to control and suppress non-magical folk, Marillier’s world has evil controlling magic as a safety measure against people who never sought to overthrow the King. The reader learns of this world through the eyes of Neryn, whose magical abilities are revealed gradually through the book. The first chapter deals with the repercussions of the destruction the King has made to families throughout the Kingdom. Neryn’s father, the only family she has left in the world, has been driven mad by the loss of his son and wife. The King is burning villages to the ground and hunting any person found to be consorting with magical creatures or possessing magical abilities themselves. Throughout Neryn’s journey we learn that there can only be two resolutions for this kingdom: death or a war using magic to save the existance of magic. Ironically this means that the King will have created the path to his own destruction. (Or perhaps his followers will have the ability to overthrow the rebellion.) In any case Shadowfell was a compelling story that I look forward to reading again before the sequels are published.
As with most young adult book we have a small love story that also spices up the plot. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but the last few pages of Shadowfell will get some hearts thumping and craving the next book in the Shadowfell series. (Next year!!)
At the moment Shadowfell has a 4.04 Goodreads star rating. I give it a 5. It’s a beautiful book that has all the elements of a proper fantasy novel without the sappy shortcomings of some YA books, a page-turner to give your imagination a hearty stir and a plot that’ll keep you interested until the very last page.