Published: July 1st 2012 by Pan Macmillan AU
Format: Paperback, 349 pages
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The people of Alban are afraid.
The tyrannical king and his masked Enforcers are scouring the land, burning villages and enslaving the canny. Fifteen-year-old Neryn has fled her home in the wake of their destruction, and is alone and penniless, hiding her extraordinary magical power. She can rely on no one - not even the elusive Good Folk who challenge and bewilder her with their words.
When an enigmatic stranger saves her life, Neryn and the man called Flint begin an uneasy journey together. She wants to trust Flint but how can she tell who is true in this land of evil?
For Neryn has heard whisper of a mysterious place far away: a place where rebels are amassing to free the land and end the King's reign.
A place called Shadowfell.
A great example of everything that is good and wonderful about YA fantasy, Shadowfell is bound to enthrall its readers. It has certainly captivated me!
Marillier has long been acknowledged as a great storyteller, and it embarrasses me greatly to admit this is the first time I have read her works. I won’t make that mistake again! There’s a lyrical quality to her writing, her world-building is absolutely solid, and her characters are heartwarming.
Alban’s King has outlawed all forms of magic, preferring to kill anyone outside of his personal guard who possesses any power, however small, outside of the ordinary. Neryn, who has been able to see the Good Folk (the fae) all her life, is on the run from them with her father. Wagered by her father in a drunken gamble, and lost, Neryn travels with the cold stranger who won her: Flint.
Neryn is strong-willed, determined, compassionate and smart. Everything I like in a protagonist. She runs away from Flint at first opportunity, and it’s really interesting to see how she tries to make it on her own. She almost makes it, but she still struggles and I spent a lot of time thinking that it may have been better if she’d stayed with him! But Neryn is very stubborn, and manages to get out trouble all on her own, which is great. The story really picks up when Flint comes back, because the story has an added element of do-we-trust-him.
Flint is awesome, mainly because for once he’s not the stereotypical perfect YA hunk. Neryn admits he’s not exactly handsome, and he has a dark past and a hidden identity. However, he has an air of mystery and is a perfect gentleman, qualities that made me like him from the offset. There’s so much going on in the story, with Neryn’s powers, her mistrust of Flint, and their flight from the Enforcers, that there isn’t much time for a romance. But it’s there, in a very small but heartwarming way, and I loved it. I’m looking forward to it developing, but am also grateful it’s taking a definite back seat to everything else in the story.
Marillier creates the world of Alban skilfully, without needing to dedicate paragraph after paragraph describing everything to us. The world feels incredibly real because of the small details in the story, not because of the detailed landmarks in the world. The terror the common folk feel of the Kings power is clear, as is their nostalgia for the days before he came to power. The mistrust of strangers and anything out of the ordinary is harrowing. The Good Folk mistrust all humans, which surprised me, but I understood why they’d assume that because one human (the King) is bad, they may all be.
I have enjoyed reading Shadowfell immensely, the story is amazing and the characters are dimensional and believable. I’ll return to this story-world very soon to read Raven’s Flight and The Caller. If you aren’t already reading these books, you really should!