Format Read: e-book provided by publisher via NetGalley
Length: 304 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: The Shadow Reader, #2
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Ace Books
Formats Available: mass-market paperback, e-book
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Author’s Website
McKenzie Lewis has a gift. It allows her access to a world few have seen, and even fewer can comprehend. It’s her secret. And it exists in the shadows…
McKenzie was a normal college student, save for one little twist: she’s a shadow reader, someone who can both see the fae and track their movements between our world and the Realm. It’s a gift for which she has been called insane, one for which she has risked family and friends—and one that has now plunged her into a brutal civil war between the fae.
With the reign of the king and his vicious general at an end, McKenzie hoped to live a more normal life while exploring her new relationship with Aren, the rebel fae who has captured her heart. But when her best friend, Paige, disappears McKenzie knows her wish is, for now, just a dream. McKenzie is the only one who can rescue her friend, but if she’s not careful, her decisions could cost the lives of everyone she’s tried so hard to save.
Forgive me ahead of time if this review ends up seeming like a spiral of nonsensical rambling. It’s just that I’m excited about this book! I began it expecting an enjoyable read, and finished it feeling like I got an amazing one. (Feel free to check out my review of the first book in this series, The Shadow Reader.) I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free, k?
The Shattered Dark takes place approximately two weeks after the conclusion of The Shadow Reader. And like many urban fantasy series, its books are pretty closely tied. The experience is best with all context. It doesn’t even need to be fresh–I had forgotten some names and plot details from the first book when I’d started this one–but the thread between the two books is tightly woven, and the soul searching that protagonist McKenzie Lewis struggles with persists (the story goes into much more detail about McKenzie’s difficulties here, past and present…to fascinating effect). She wants to find her place in the world–HER world, Earth–as well as explore the possibilities of her relationship with Aren, fae rebel warrior.
The Shattered Dark–and the series, for that matter–lives at the intersection of urban fantasy and high fantasy. For fans of one or the other, reading this series is a neat way to get a taste the other. For fans of both, this is an amazing concoction of expert plotting, pacing, character development, and rich world building.
First a word to the pacing/plotting. This book begins with an action scene, but for the most part, the earlier parts of this tale contain a fair bit introspective exploration by McKenzie. Precisely halfway through the book, however, isht gets real. ^_^ Then you need to hold on to the Oh Sh** handle (McKenzie’s term ^_^) of that car. Plot developments come with such impact that it’s hard to find a good place to “pause” in reading (total high-class “problem,” that).
Now, about the world building. The book includes an image of a map depicting the fae Realm and its regions, and new concepts are subtly explained as they are introduced…but man, this world is mighty intricate and detailed for an urban fantasy. Not to say that UFs aren’t generally intricate… but in the case of The Shattered Dark, you get the sense that there’s a whole extra set of books out there–whether in the author’s mind or in physical form–that delve into the politics, the history, the culture, the language, the spiritual beliefs, the social structure of this world. You get glimpses of it everywhere. I’d love to be the archivist for this world. ^_^
There is a lot of attention paid to character relationships and connections. That’s what I think is key here (and it’s certainly one of my favorite aspects of the book): the dynamics between characters are highly complex and involve some of the toughest issues to navigate–discrimination, split allegiances, vengeance, misperceptions, self-identity, love in its many forms. In my notes on the book, I wrote down “Constellation of characters”–what I meant was that characters in this series are connected, all of them…not just to the protagonist, but to each other, whether obviously or subtly. One character’s actions really do have ripple effects, and even minor characters serve a greater storytelling purpose.
The mark of a solid series book is when you finish it with the NEED to read the next installment. In the best cases, a crazy cliffhanger isn’t needed; just a bit of promise, a glimpse into the multitude of directions and possibilities that the next book(s) will bring. The Shattered Dark is that kind of book that both satisfies and leaves you wanting more in the best possible way. It’s romantic; it’s thrilling and intense; it’s thought-provoking; and at times, it’s funny and light-hearted. If you like your high fantasy, this urban fantasy is right up your alley.
I give The Shattered Dark 5 Stars
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