Book Review : Shadowcaster
By Cinda Williams Chima
A lifelong war.
Alyssa ana’Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn’t pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.
A life in peril.
Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.
The shadow of defeat. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
It feels like it’s been so long since I read Flamecaster and I wondered if I would have a hard time getting back in to the flow of the Shattered Realms series. More than half of Shadowcaster introduces new characters and emphasizes different problems within the realm. Jenn barely makes it into the book until the very end, and by then you will be so caught up in Chima’s world that you will remember exactly how she fits into the storyline.
One of the keys to a great novel are the characters. In Shadowcaster we have a unique situation with the key characters. Lyss and Hal are on opposite sides of the war and we feel empathy for both characters. It is easy to see how these two will fall in love, though they have obstacles that interfere with developing a relationship – such as the fact that Lyss has imprisoned Hal and may have to kill him due to politics. It’s easy to see how being raised in a different country can alter a person’s perspective. Hal sees benefits for the Kingdom *cough* Queendom of the Fell to be brought under Arden’s rule. Of course, he doesn’t know of identity of Lyss.
“‘Ma’am. We are soldiers, you and I. There is always a need for soldiers. It might be that our lives wouldn’t change much, no matter who sits on the throne.’ Even as he said it, he didn’t believe it.
Her expression said that he was impossibly naive.” (p. 339)
Hal is what I think of as stoic and practical (perhaps like a Mr. Darcy who is an officer). There are moments when we all need those two characteristics in a friend. He is down to earth, loyal and lives by the honor code taught to him by his father.
I like Lyss, even though she is the new type of female protagonist who always seems to be great with a sword and doesn’t think she is beautiful. I’m fairly certain that most women, even with training wouldn’t be great with a sword in a fight against a man trained for combat. I definitely relate to her loathing the posturing around politics. She also despairs over the false conventions surrounding “proper” society, which would be another excuse for shallow gossiping harpies to interfere.
“Despite plenty of opportunities, Finn didn’t seem to play the romantic games that others did. If he’d had sweethearts in the past, it was a closely guarded secret.
Maybe that was why Lyss like him. Wooing and romantic banter were not in her arsenal, either. When you fall in love with somebody, they just go and get themselves killed. When I marry, she thought, I’m going to find somebody with an army and some warships and a big bag of money. Then I’ll do my dancing on the battlefield.” ( p. 21)
Another character is Breon, who is a mixed bag of identity. He doesn’t really know who he is, he is charming, has a sense of following an honorable path and is addicted to leaf, a drug within the Shattered Realms. Breon also has a gift that he is not fully aware of, but others may being willing to kill to secure him for their kingdom. He reminds me a lot of a character, Errol, in Patrick W. Carr’s novel A Cast of Stone. Because of the similarity I just can’t help but have hope that Breon is going to land on his feet eventually. He is a charmer.
“Oranges! That struck a chord deep inside him. Where would have tasted oranges before? Breon had no idea. It was like somebody had wiped huge chunks of his life from his memory. His mouth remembered, though, because it watered as he lined up with the others.” (p. 96)
In the final few pages there are a few plot ties to the previous novel, and a gut twisting dilemma. Shadowcaster does not read as a middle book – just pacing time to get the grand finale. Because of the new characters, and a plot that could reasonably follow the original series with Han and Raisa, it feels fresh and interesting. Once again, I can hardly wait to read the next book! I’m looking forward to more with a dragon, and evil queen, developments in a love story and reconnecting lost family.
I wondered how China came up with the name Shadowcaster for the novel. The explanation is a bit spoiler-ish, so you have been warned again. Breon is writing his epitaph and realizes he is writing himself more as he hoped to be than what he had actually been. He names himself Shadowcaster within the poetry like epitaph.
4 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked this one you might like The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler and A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and The Raven Ring by Patricia C. Wrede.
An alternate cover: