Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Review Copy: Edelweiss
Release Date: September 26, 2013
Summary: Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new boyfriend. Not only is he from the Old World, but he’s accompanied by huge, jagged shadows that dart and slither around him. He must be practicing some sort of illegal magic. Oldworld still uses magic, but in Newworld the magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie's great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago. Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He's from Oldworld too—and he's heard of Maggie's stepfather, and has a guess about Val's shadows. Maggie doesn't want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend not only on Casimir's knowledge of magic, but on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.
Continually surprising readers with magical twists and turns, Shadows features a memorable heroine, intriguing world-building and a fascinating blend of contemporary fantasy and science fiction.
My Thoughts: I appreciated that Robin McKinley had some diversity in this novel. There is a major character who is Japanese, Takahiro, and then a couple others that come from a foreign place that is called OldWorld. Because of her friendship with Takahiro, the main character, Maggie, often peppered her conversation with Japanese words. In the beginning it felt a bit awkward. They felt out of place even though the character explained why she was doing it. The words seemed to be there only to add a little bit of the exotic, but later, once the characters were more familiar, it made more sense. The purpose became more understandable and they were less distracting over time.
I also found some of the "sci-fi" vocabulary hard to accept. I guess it seemed that the setting was not so different from the present and McKinley was mostly relying on the futuristic terms to build the world or make it appear to be the future. For example, she used the word 'tops instead of laptops and webnet. Those words seemed forced in rather than organic.
The "shadows" or gruaa were what I liked the most, but they were the part of the story that was less sci-fi and more fantasy. The shadows give the story a depth and I think fantasy is what McKinley does best. I have enjoyed every one of Robin McKinley's books including this one, but my favorites are definitely the ones that are heavier on the fantasy. Her fantasy sparkles and enchants.
This book ends with enough questions that a sequel would be possible. I would enjoy seeing more of this world and the characters she has created, but I am even more eager for another fairytale retelling or vampire book. I would recommend Beauty, Deerskin and t he Outlaws of Sherwood over this one, but I wouldn't tell anyone not to read it. A true fan of Robin McKinley will still need to read Shadows.