Fifteen-year-old Neryn and her father have been on the run for years. They move from town to town, never stopping for more than a day or two in the same place. They only have the clothes on their backs and a few coppers in their pockets. Or they did, until her father got drunk and gambled the money away.
And then he gambled Neryn away, too.
Bookshelves of Doom takes on 'Crusher', the debut novel from Niall Leonard (Mr. E. L. James).
Yes, you read that right. I read the relevant paragraph three times before I was able to convince myself that it was really happening. And then I continued reading. And reading. And reading... until I was done. Which is unusual for me, as journey stories—stories in which the main character has adventures while travelling from Point A to Point B—rarely capture my attention so completely. Usually, I read them in fits and starts that mirror the character’s journey, blazing through pages as she travels, putting the book down for a break when she makes camp.
But there was something about Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell that kept me reading. At first, it was simply about self-preservation: Marillier dropped me into Neyrn’s world without any background, backstory or explanation, and I was forced to play catch-up. I had to figure out on my own who the Enforcers were (not friendly), what the Cull was (not good) and why Neryn was on the run in the first place (not pretty). While some readers dislike that slightly-lost feeling, I love it; getting dropped into another world makes a title all the more real to me. And this is a world worth getting dropped into—a sort-of pre-medieval Scotland in which magic is forbidden to all but the members of the tyrant king’s inner circle; a world in which a rebellion is slowly gaining traction; in which the fey still walk; and in which childhood stories are more than stories... they’re prophecies.
Shadowfell is the first installment of an epic. On one hand, it’s a sweeping, grand story that deals with fate and justice, betrayal and sacrifice. But on the other hand, Shadowfell also works on a very personal level. Neryn is not a melee fighter, and she’s empathetic, thoughtful and steady. In other words, she’s almost the polar opposite of today’s generic fantasy heroine—and one of the most impressive aspects of her steadiness is that she never loses sight of the fact that she’s part of something much, much bigger than she is, even when romance becomes a factor. Which isn’t to say that the love story isn’t powerful—it is—but it’s a quiet sort of powerful, not brought on by the zing! of physical attraction, but by a growing trust between two people.
Highly recommended to: those of you who like your fantasies epic-with-a-capital-E; those who’ve tired of the swaggering heroine model; those who welcome a slight overuse of the word ‘eldritch’; those who like a Scottish brogue to be so thick it’s occasionally almost incomprehensible; those who like characters to appreciate the grave consequences of their actions; and those who like romance to take a backseat to Saving the World.
I'm so very much looking forward to the next installment that I’m considering reading some of Marillier’s adult fiction to tide me over.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.