Shadowfell series: A review

Thank you, Chirp! I might never have discovered this delightful series had it not been for a discounted copy of Shadowfell on my Chirp email. Let’s face it, when you devour between two and four audiobooks a week, you just can’t pay full price for them. That’s where Chirp and the Daily Deals from Audible are quite helpful. Okay. Enough free advertising.

Shadowfell: fantasy, adventure, deep characters, impossible choices, the Fey

Juliet Marillier is a new author to me, but I’m quite certain this series won’t be the last books of hers I read. I really enjoyed the voice of the characters, the depth of their issues and challenges. Several reviewers thought Shadowfell lacked action. I disagree. While it is true sword or fist fights do not occur often, the characters move and grow and change. They do a lot of traveling, but with that comes self-discovery. The challenges are not so much against other characters, but within each character and the land, nature, the Good Folk. They face struggles for survival and as they seek the means to survive, they must also learn how to grasp hope. This hope is what carries them through the next two novels when physical and emotional strength are the things they need most. The testing main character Neryn endures as she seeks the refuge of Shadowfell, are vital to her later success.

If you’re a reader who craves a fight on every page, this series probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy mental challenges and situations that demand moral integrity with no map to point the way through murky solutions and outcomes, then you’ll adore these books.

The series is set in Alban, a fictional world similar to Scotland cast with all manner of fey and human folk. The current king has outlawed interactions between humans and the Good Folk, as the fey are generally called. His rule is rooted in fear and absolute obedience. Enforcers maintain that obedience and add to the fear.

Neryn has seen the worst the Enforcers can do – they burned her village, murdered her brother, and stole the mind of her grandmother. At the beginning of Shadowfell, the take her father’s life as well. A young man she doesn’t know rescues Neryn from the inferno that kills her father, but in Alban, no one is trustworthy. The king’s rule has pitted neighbor against neighbor and no one is safe. Neryn flees for Shadowfell on her own. On the way, the Good Folk help her and she discovers that she is a Caller – a rare human who can channel magic to compel the Good Folk into action. In the past, a Caller was instrumental in winning great battles by joining fey and human forces.

Neryn travels through country such as this on her way to Shadowfell. photo on Unsplash by Adam Gavlak.

In book two, Raven’s Flight, Neryn begins her training. She must visit the Guardians – four ancient beings of great power who can teach her how to be an effective Caller. Neryn is protective of the Good Folk and unwilling to send them to their deaths. But she knows that without help, the rebels will never succeed in ridding Alban of the terrible injustices of the king.

Book three, The Caller, follows Neryn for her third round of training and leads to the Midsummer Gathering where the rebels plan to take their stand. Meanwhile another Caller has been found and he works for the king. Neryn must discover how to negate his call and bring the captured Good Folk to fight for the rebels else the fey will be pitted against one another.

I read books two and three through a library loan in the Kindle versions and finished each in less than two days. I read through the night and whenever I could fit it in during the day. The compassion Neryn brings to all she meets is a shining example of goodness and light amidst overwhelming darkness. I enjoyed seeing her opinions of Enforcers and even the King change and shift once she got to know them. Few characters are written as purely evil. There are redeeming characteristics even among those Neryn believed to be completely evil.

Flint’s situation as a rebel spy and the king’s best friend was interestingly written as well. The anguish and damage of the double life I found to be realistic and brutal. It gave me a new appreciation for those whose jobs and duties demand horrific sacrifices.

The one thing I disliked occurred near the end of book two. I didn’t think one character’s death was well foreshadowed. I felt like it was too abrupt, though later it was fleshed out to my satisfaction, and I came to believe that the story moved on well after that. I still wished for a better resolution for Tali. I’ll say no more so as not to give spoilers.

Overall, the message of the importance of hope and its profound influence on people’s lives was well delivered throughout the series. The notion of sacrifice for a cause and the cause before all else doesn’t work without the underlying thread of hope woven throughout these stories.

If you enjoy a story that makes you think as well as bringing heart-throbbing tension, wonderful infusions of folklore and distinctive characters, then you will enjoy the Shadowfell series by Juliet Marillier.

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