A lifelong war.
Alyssa ana’Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the 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.
A life in peril.
Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lytling. 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.
The shadow of defeat.
Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series, this is a thrilling story of unfathomable costs of war, the allure of dark magic, and two principled and conflicted characters drawn together despite everything they stand to lose.
This is the second book in Cinda Williams Chima’s Shattered Realms series. I reviewed the first book, Flamecaster here. In this book, we follow another member of the royal family of the Fellisian queendom, the heir to the throne, Lyss. I really enjoyed following Lyss in this story. She’s a character that I really enjoyed watching develop. At the beginning of the story she’s a young girl who’s just lost her sister and with that has become the new heir to the throne. We get to see into her relationship with her brother, Ash – who is the sibling that we follow in Flamecaster. She’s confiding in him about how she’s not ready to be queen and she doesn’t think that she’s the right person for this responsibility. He promises her that he will always be there for her and that she’s not alone with this new responsibility. And then he abandons her because of his own issues. Lyss is a girl that has been dealt the worst hand, over and over again. It only makes her stronger. Lyss takes all of her struggles and turns it into strength, into determination, into motivation to be the best she can for her people. It’s clear that she cares deeply about her friends and fellow soldiers – she’s a captain of her own special ‘Grey Wolf Squad’ that we learn is more like a little family. The members of the Grey Wolves care about each other and do what they need to in order to look out for one another. It’s clear that Alyssa is going to be a great leader regardless of all of the doubts she has about herself. We get to see these doubts and insecurities come out when Lyss is around her cousin Julianna. Julianna is the girl that I think Lyss sees that Julianna is excelling at all of the political and diplomatic things that Lyss is most insecure about.
There are so many things I like about this story. One of them is the timeline. This second book is happening partially at the same time as the first. So we get to see more details into events that we heard happening in the first book, but we get to read about how these important events happened. I thought it was cool that we got to see both siblings on both sides of the world both playing huge roles in their quickly changing world. Getting to see the two stories meet up and the characters come together was a nice touch. I liked how Chima did this, it was really well written. Everything just fits together nicely. The pace of the story (and series) was great. There was an ample amount of suspense but done the right way. It’s not too much or too little. We’re left wanting more, but not overwhelmed with questions. All of the characters necessary to the story are introduced slowly which I like because we really get to know them. They may be secondary characters, but they’re real and they’re fully developed because we’re not overwhelmed with characters and Chima took the time to really get into each one. I’m anxious to see the characters all meet and to see who else we will meet in the third book and beyond.
Jenna is one of the characters that we met in the first book. We only get to see bits and pieces of what she’s up to in this book, but I loved what we did get to see. We get more into her relationship with Cas which had me laughing the whole time. I absolutely adore Cas and everything about him. He has his own personality and it just cracks me up. I love the relationship between these two and I’m excited to see more of it in the next book. Jenna is a girl I really love. She always tries to do the right thing, even if it’s something that’s a risk to her own well being. She’s got great instincts and seems to know just the right time to get out of any given situation. She’s the first we meet with the magemark. The next is Breon. A very interesting guy. A character I’m not totally sure how to feel about. He’s one giant mystery. We learn just enough about him to know that he’s a good guy deep down inside, even though he mostly hangs around the wrong kind of people. Bree is surrounded by mystery and I really can’t wait to read more about him in the next book. There are so many unanswered questions with him. Why can’t he remember anything before he was ten? Where did his ability to sing someone’s song come from? What does this have to do with the magemarks? Also, an interesting aspect of the story is Bree’s addiction. He smokes a plant that they refer to as ‘leaf’. I liked this aspect because it made Bree flawed. It was really refreshing to have a character so flawed. He’s a character that has issues that he needs to work on. I’m anxious to see where these magemarked characters will take us in the rest of the series.
My favorite character in this book was Halston Matelon. Hal is the mirror of Lyss, minus the royalty part. He’s a part of Arden’s army and just trying to do his best for a country that he knows isn’t the best. He’s a man with honor. He wants to do the right thing, but he’s conflicted because the right thing and his orders aren’t always in line. There’s a great dynamic between him and Lyss. They’re both leaders, just on opposite sides of the war. Hal knowledge is full of misconceptions; misconceptions about the royal women of the Fells, misconceptions about Lyss and who he thinks she’s involved with, and misconceptions about northerners in general. Because of these, we got to see his thought process change once he was faced with the truth. It was fascinating to follow the character development for Hal. I also got a kick out of Hal’s internal conversation. He’s always talking to himself internally. It’s sometimes hilarious, especially when he’s thinking about Lyss. He compares her to a wolf for most of the book not knowing that she is the heir to the grey wolf throne. He also is forever talking about how he’s never met a woman like Lyss and it really just emphasizes the cultural differences between Arden and the Fells, specifically their women. I could go on and on about Hal, but I’ll stop here.
There were a few little things that I didn’t like about this book. One of them is that we didn’t see Ash, not even once, so we’re left wondering what’s happening with him the whole time. Another thing, at the beginning of the book Lyss is about eleven years old talking to her brother and then suddenly we’re four years into the future. Then a chapter or two later we do another time jump of a few months, it’s just off and a little bit confusing but it only happened in the beginning and not again after these two times. There were way more things that I liked about Shadowcaster than disliked. Chima is an incredible world builder. I love this book because we get to see even more of the Seven Realms, from Delphi to the heart of Arden, we get to travel all over in this series and it’s incredible to see more of this place. I’m excited to read the third book and the others when they are published so that we can explore the realms further. I have a feeling we’re going to get to explore the southern islands and I’m very intrigued to see them. Chima also creates amazing characters. They’re real and relatable to the reader, but also to one another. They’re a generation of kids that were all forced to grow up too soon because of this ridiculous war.
Overall, I loved this book (can you tell?) and I can’t wait to read the third one, Stormcaster. This book is great for anyone that likes fantasy, especially those who like a strong female lead.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.
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