*I received a free ARC of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
There are three kinds of magic in the world, and Corentine has the wrong one.
Long ago, the Restless King forced Corentine’s people into hiding as he scoured their blood for the SoulShifter. When Corentine learns she possesses some of the forbidden Shifter magic, she must hide her power or risk the same death her twin suffered.
Raised to trust no one, she rejects the General’s son Sy, until she realizes his family secrets might be the key to unlocking hers. When his brother turns against them, they are forced to fight family to save what’s left of their home, or accept banishment to find a new future.
If Coren and Sy can’t convince their people to accept the light of Shifter magic, the growing Shadow will ruin everyone’s chance of freedom.
Sulit Witch. Weshen Shifter. Umbren Shadow.
When dark meets light, will all become Shadow?
Well, I have to hold my hands up here. When I first started this book I thought it was ‘just another’ teen/YA fantasy adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-written book of any type or genre, but there can be a tendency to the formulaic in some cases: young orphan misfit discovers their magic/skill and embarks on an adventure as ‘the Chosen One’ to save the world and pick up a standard romantic partner along the way.
This is not that book!
My first hint that something was different was in the character of Reshra. He is introduced as the typical spoilt rich brat, using women like slaves and conniving against his brother. With Sy in the mix we had our standard good brother, bad brother and it was so obvious that kind Prince Sy would be the Charming who swept our irascible, independent Coren off her feisty feet and into a princessy swoon.
After red herring-ing us with the traditional set up, Hilary Thompson suddenly gives us a small switch into Resh’s point of view, and suddenly he isn’t the bad guy we saw through Coren and Sy’s eyes. He still has his faults, but he is a complex character and his motivations cannot be dismissed: in fact it becomes quickly obvious that despite his view on women (cemented by cultural norms) his stance on war and leadership may not only be reasonable, but much more what their people need in an upcoming time of war than his terrified General father or kindly Sy who puts his personal desires ahead of his duty.
This finely nuanced character development not only continues, but builds throughout the novel. Not just Resh, but every character is layered, individual and believable. Sy and Coren refuse to follow the romantic pattern we readers identified for them, Coren fails to fall at anyone’s feet and instead shows a fairly unabashed appetite for getting the job done herself (and a bit of a violent streak!), Resh is a sly, conniving, spoilt, loyal softie who sees to the heart of problems and quietly smoothes the path for his loved ones when it is in his best interests to see them stumble.
The character I am least fond of is the General because to me his actions are completely unfathomable. I see that he’s making decisions out of fear: fear of change, war, defeat. But he is clearly fully aware of the need to ‘breed’ Weshen magic back into his people, but then condemns and banishes anyone who shows the slightest sign of it! I’m not sure how he achieved General status because as a war plan that ranks right up there with ‘let’s just charge them with pointy sticks across an open field and hope their tanks malfunction’! It makes absolutely no sense.
In addition to the expert characterisation the book as a whole is exceptionally well-written. The plot is exciting, complex and well-paced; the setting is easily visualised; the creatures are unique and fascinating, and the magics are different but well-defined.
In short there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this book and you can look out for a review of book 2 in the future because I have to find out how this one ends!
He was very close now: not quite near enough to grab her, but mere steps from it. She stepped back carefully, heels nearly hanging off the edge of the cliff.
“Nothing is small when it is against your will.”
She watched his eyes widen as he processed the words, and then she bent her knees and pushed away from the earth, arcing back and out into the void, then straight as an arrow toward the water below.
– Hilary Thompson, Shift of Shadow and Soul