Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier ★★★★★

Shadowfell (Shadowfell #1) by Juliet Marillier
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Shadowfell #1
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0375869549
Page Count: 416
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death—but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule.

Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.


I love, love, loved it!

This was sooooooo absorbing! And, funnily enough, compared to other similar books of this genre, the book wasn't even particularly action-packed or fast-moving, so it wasn't that that had me flipping the pages. It was more that I was simply enchanted by it. By the world, the story and the writing. This is my first book by Marillier, but will definitely not be my last! Her writing style is immediately engaging, no doubt in part due to being in first person, which is quite unusual for this type of book.

Full confession time: this genre is fast becoming by own personal literary crack, I can't seem to get enough of it. So that will have upped my enjoyment and my rating because I was in my reading element, my happy place. It's a difficult genre to pin down, really. It's essentially a historical fantasy setting (in this case loosely based on a magical ancient Scotland) with lush world-building and a strong (either of magic, character or body) and often quite young, female main character, and usually has a slow-forming but very sweet romance. I may not know what the genre is called, but I know exactly who I would recommend it to. If you are a fan of any or all of the following, you should love this book.

Maria V. Snyder. (Study Series, Healer of Avry series)
Kristin Cashore. (Seven Kingdoms series)
R. L. LaFevers (His Fair assassin series)
Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series)
Kristen Britain (Greed Rider series)

And probably more I'm forgetting or haven't 'met' myself yet.

I've seen from other reviewers who have had the pleasure of reading Marillier before, that this isn't even necessarily her best or most thrilling book, no doubt due to the aforementioned lack of action or solid conclusion. But it's a great opener for a series I'm now extremely excited about continuing. The main conflict of the story arc—an evil King on a mission to cull every town of anyone who has Canny magic (unless they work for him, of course) by whatever ruthless means necessary—is set up nicely in this first book, but as of yet, our brave young heroine, Neryn, isn't quite ready to face him. She's just at the beginning of her journey, but has SO MUCH potential.

At the start of the book, Neryn has just about lost everything and finds herself on her own and on the run. Help comes in the most unexpected of forms and there are many a challenge and test of wills along the way. Much like in the great fairy tales of the past, our heroine first has to prove her worth, have her mettle tested to breaking point, and that's exactly what this book shows us. Seeing these early stages of our heroine's growth, while she's still so young and even a little bit naive, will no doubt make seeing the rest of her journey that much more fulfilling.

Flint, who was the other main character out of the wide and varied cast, all of whom were vivid and essential, was a real treat. Not your typical hero by any means, but what an amazingly complex and conflicted character! I can't wait to see more of him.

Even lacking in action or any big, climactic ending as it was, this was not a boring book by any means, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page as I said. There is a lot of time that Neryn is alone and travelling, but she's faced with constant challenges that kept me well entertained. And then when Flint came on the scene...well, I was entertained for all kinds of different reasons then! :)

Recommended to fans of all of the above authors, and to anyone who loved a good (and often rather gruesome) fairy tale as a child. Suitable for younger readers, but perfect for big kids too.

5 Stars ★★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.


  1. I always did like fairy tales. Especially the dark ones. I'll definitely have to check it out now. Great Review!

  2. I love it when a book is so enjoyable you just can't stop reading. Especially if it's enjoyable purely because you're pulled in to the world and kept interested.

    I love most of Juliet Marillier's books! So I can't wait to read this one! Have you read Wildwood Dancing? Or Heart's Blood? I loved those by Juliet :)



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