There’s a certain eerie magic to shadows, isn’t there? The sort that sends a shiver up and down your spine, that make you afraid to turn the next page. A person can drown in shadows, cloaked in consuming darkness. Ladies and gentlemen, Shadow Magic.
There’s a certain powerful beauty to shadows, isn’t there? The sort that sends a wave of electricity through your veins, that gives you the strength to carry on. A person can rise on a shadow, empowered by the fierce energy that resides there. Ladies and gentlemen, Shadowshaper.
Two vastly different books, portraying shadows two vastly different ways- and today, I’m going to talk about both.
Shadow Magic first enchanted me with its cover. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ is the old adage, yet we know that we all do. At once spooky and fantastical, hinting at the macabre magic within- and what a magical journey it is.
Thorn is a thirteen year old boy, captured by slavers in Port Cutlass on his journey to look for his father. He’s rescued from trouble- Thorn is always getting into trouble- by Tyburn, the royal executioner of Gehenna. The two journey to Castle Gloom, the very center of Gehenna.
Lily Shadow, thirteen year old crown princess of Gehenna, is in an unusually foul mood. She’s being forced to marry Prince Gabriel, of the House Solar, and she’s not happy about it. Being the ruler of the extremely gloomy Castle Gloom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Lily is bored, annoyed with her drunkard uncle, and longing for a little adventure. Enter Thorn, who’s here to train as Tyburn’s squire.
Prince Gabriel and all of his soldiers have come to Gehenna now for the announcement of the marriage. With them is K’leef, a prince of the Sultanate of Fire and a hostage. He’s unhappy, too, as he’s being held against his will far away from home.
At the engagement dinner, an accidental poisoning sends all of Castle Gloom into an uproar. Lily is convinced that Gabriel tried to kill her, and finds unlikely allies in Thorn and K’leef, who are the only ones to believe her.
I can’t tell you too much more about the story without spoiling it for you, but rest assured that with a giant bat named Hades, a masquerade ball, and a few Walking Dead, there’s never a dull moment.
Shadow Magic is a well-crafted tale, with a beautiful world. The story takes place in a set of kingdoms- House Shadow, House Solar, House Coral, House Typhoon, the Sultanate of Fire, and Herne’s Forest. Each has command over an element, and some are polar opposites-light and darkness, Earth and sky, fire and water.
Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic is a fantastically written story, and every page left me both excited and scared to turn to the next. It’s engaging, thrilling, and filled with plot twists that you’ll never see coming. I give it a well-deserved five stars!
Shadowshaper is a wildly different story, but just as beautifully constructed. Its cover is finely done- a Latina girl with big hair, covered over with a thousand colors. It’s magical and ethereal, just fantastic enough to be fantasy, relatable on a level that makes it relevant to all of us. At one moment or another, we have all been that girl, feeling empowered and amazing in a spray of color.
Sierra Santiago is just your average Latina girl growing up in the Bronx. She goes to street parties with her friends, argues with her big family, and is painting a mural for her friend Manny. She’s fierce, independent, and always makes sure her opinions are heard.
Unfortunately, a reanimated corpse crashes the first party of the summer. Sierra looks to her grandfather for answers, but all she gets is a muttered phrase about “the Shadowshapers”. Everyone she asks avoids answering. Sierra’s friend Robbie finally gives her a straight answer- 113 pages into the book.
Shadowshapers are people who can take ancestral spirits and weave them into art. They can bring life to paintings, keeping the magic in the world with the beauty of drawings and chalk sketches. The more effort put into art, the more strength is in the spirit of that art. Sierra is a Shadowshaper, and it’s Robbie’s job to train her in the magic.
Shadowshaper is a phenomenal book, filled with spine-tingling magic that bridges genres: between realistic and fantasy, between paranormal and even horror. It’s intense, sparkling, and just the right amount of mysterious. It gets a lovely four and a half stars, all well-deserved.
The heroines in both of our stories are strong, clever, and compassionate. They stick to their guns, no matter what, and it takes a lot for them to fall for any male (or female, I don’t judge) interests in their stories. Lily is brave and wickedly determined, while Sierra is ingenuitive and just the racially diverse heroine we need. Both girls are good at not only saving themselves but ultimately saving the day.
I loved both of these books, and I hope you will, too!