Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room
Read for my personal summer reading list (book #1 on the list) and also for our July 3rd TBOM book discussion.
This is the first book in a series about Neryn, a sixteen year old girl with the ability to see the Good Folk, fairies who blend in with nature, tend to be very small, and don’t have typical fairy wings. The king of Alban has decreed that anyone with canny abilities should be killed, or work specifically for him. No one is allowed to speak of the old ways, or practice the ancient arts. Anyone who can sing or weave a basket too well is thought to have abilities they shouldn’t. This is not a time of peace, but of unrest, a time when being overheard speaking the wrong words could cause death, or worse, a mind-scrapping. Enter Neryn, a young girl who’s grandmother told her secret tales of the Good Folk, who was ready to stand up for what she believed in, and eventually died for those beliefs. Neryn is on a long journey with Flint, a companion she isn’t sure she can trust with her deep secrets. It turns out, however, that Flint has secrets of his own and they might be closely related to hers. Will she reach Shadowfell, a destination marked for safety to those with canny abilities? Or will Flint turn her over to the king for his use?
This book was well written, seemingly above the traditional YA fantasy novels that have been written lately. I fell into a world that was at once fantastical, and yet very believable. I loved the Good Folk, who are like fairies and yet not like any that have been written about recently. These are magic folk of old stories. They blend into nature and only come out if you can see them, only help you if you are kind hearted and share whatever you can with them. Neryn learned to share from her grandmother, learned that it doesn’t matter how much you have, you always have something you can share. Often she is hungry and offers a little of her food to the Good Folk in return for a little of their help. She is able to call mythical creatures to her aid, creatures not found in typical YA novels. She is strong, and kind. She isn’t what I would call “girly” and she isn’t not “girly” either, something else I liked. The cover of the book doesn’t have the typical girl in a beautiful gown (which usually never appears in the actual book!) and that made the book that much more approachable. This was a good read over all, but there were a few issues I had with it, minor though they might be. Trust is a hard won issue throughout the book. No one is trustworthy in Alban. Everyone is looking over their backs. That’s understandable, but the trust between Neryn and Flint goes back and forth so many times, it does get a little irritating, along with the repeated traveling, that never seems to end. As for Flint himself, it is stated somewhere in the book that he’s young, perhaps early twenties at the most. But his actions, and the way he speaks, puts him at a much older age. I kept picturing Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), and thus, had a little trouble picturing the budding romance between the two. I actually would prefer him to be a man of Aragorn’s age, minus the romance. I’ll admit, I’m getting tired of there having to be a romance in every YA book out there. Otherwise, I loved this book, and will likely give the second book a try when I get a chance.
For those who are interested, our TBOM book discussion will be at 3pm on July 3rd. Everyone is welcome and snack food will be provided!