My rating: 5 of 5 stars
SUCH a mesmerising story.
I reviewed the prequel novella, THE GOLDEN CAGE, for a blog tour, and was so taken with all aspects of it – the characterisation, world building, plot, dialogue and, well, just everything – that I went straight on the very second I’d finished it and read THE SHADOW SOUL.
It’s very unusual for me to devour a book in a short space of time, as I have far too much else going on in my life, but this one kept me coming back and I finished in a matter of two days. Okay, they were two days when I unusually had little else going on, but still…
The story starts with a tantalizing glimpse of action – an aerial battle between non-human combatants, which turns out to be a dream – or is it?
Jinji, one of the 2 viewpoint characters, is preparing for her wedding day. In a culture reminiscent of Native Americans, Jinji hides a secret – she can see elemental spirits, and can use them to weave illusions. She also sees the shadow – a terrifying something that appears to her before tragedy, and this time is no exception. On the day that should have been her happiest, the shadow strikes, wiping out her entire tribe. In shock and despair, she dresses herself in her dead twin brother’s clothes and lays down to die.
Prince Rhen, whose story is told in alternating chapters with Jinji’s, is considered a wastrel, but his carefully cultivated persona is the cover he employs while scouting his father’s kingdom for an enemy he alone believes is invading. Even his family does not believe in him, and he wrestles continually with a deep-seated feeling of lack of worth.
Coming across what he believes to be a dead boy, he rescues Jinji. In turn, she saves him from brigands but, with no desire to correct Rhen’s misconception, she becomes Jin, the last surviving boy of an antiquated culture – a novelty to wider society, dressed in skins and wide-eyed with incomprehension of Rhen’s modern world.
Jinji is just an awesome creation – so strong and yet vulnerable at the same time. Her pain over the loss of her culture, and how that underpins her motivation is utterly convincing.
Rhen endeared himself to me with his love for his horse Ember, and his dedication to his spying activities even in the face of disdain from his nearest and dearest. Oh, and Rhen is hiding a secret too – he can absorb fire into himself without harm.
Having met the character associated with the element of water in THE GOLDEN CAGE, I’m looking forward to meeting the other elemental characters in future books.
THE SHADOW SOUL presents danger at every turn, lots of mistrust, sadness and also fun in a riveting mix. I have a passionate hatred of books that end on a cliff hanger, but despite that being the case here, this book had enough of a feeling of concluding one story line not to leave me with my usual eruption of annoyance.
In fact I loved the writing so much, and am so invested in the characters and their unique world that I can’t wait for the next part.