ARC Review: Shadowcaster

ShadowcasterShadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

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.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series, this is a thrilling story of the unfathomable costs of war, the allure of dark magic, and two principled and conflicted characters, drawn together despite everything they stand to lose.

I did not realize this while reading Flamecaster (though I should have) but Shattered Realms takes the whole world to another level from Seven Realms. The earlier series was about the power struggle between wizards, the Gray Wolf Throne and the Highland clans. But Shattered Realms, which takes place in the next generation, during an ongoing war with Arden, has a very different theme. It expands the world by introducing the other parts of the Seven Realms like Delphi, the Northern Isles and also the introduction of more fantastical elements like dragons, and a new type of caster individuals – the mage-marked. Though the children of Raisa and Han are still one of the main characters in this series, with Lyss getting her spotlight in this one, it is also mainly about the magemarked Jenna (who appears from the second half of this book) and Breon (a new character introduced here). I find this addition fascinating because it diverges from the general magic that was established during the Seven Realms, and also involves way more pieces on this gigantic chessboard. Along with Arden, they now have enemies in the form of the Church of Malthus, specifically the Darian Order or something, and the Empress of Carthine (I think that was what it was called?) who seems like a pirate Queen more than anything.

If you loved Raisa in the Seven Realms, you will definitely love her warrior princess daughter – Lyss, who is an officer in the Fells army. A fierce leader and brilliant strategist, her paths cross with another fierce leader and brilliant strategist, Han Maleston, who being from the Ardenine army makes for a perfect star-crossed romance. He becomes a prisoner of war in her keep, and though he is looking to escape, he also can’t help being enamored by The Gray Wolf of the Fellsian army. Breon and Jenna, meanwhile are coming into their powers (sort of and at different levels), and I am so invested in seeing them all come together as they all hold different threads of this massive web. The plot-line is of epic proportions, and though we don’t see Adrian in this one, I hope for that reunion in the next, and what that means for the Empress’ invasion.

Although it takes place partly on the timeline of Flamecaster and partly beyond it, this book doesn’t answer the question of what is now happening in Arden? And what is going on with that Darian thingy? So many questions, and even with the 500+ page length, we don’t get many answers. The frequently switching perspectives also make for a story that doesn’t keep you hooked, however, which makes it a little less of an enjoyable read than Flamecaster. It is good, but I expected better.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.

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