Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on September 26th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago. Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage. In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.
So I’ve just finished Shadows and. . .I kind of have an unexpected book hangover. Let me start from the beginning. I’ve read a few of Robin McKinley’s books and I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve read. Beauty and Sunshine are both favorites of hers, which is kind of entertaining considering one is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and the other is a much more modern vampire story. But no matter what book of hers i’m reading, they are always completely compelling fantasies, with beautifully detailed worlds, three dimensional characters and animals. Don’t forget about the animals! Whether its dogs, dragons or a Pegasus, McKinley really understands animals.
Shadows was a little bit of a slow start for me. We’re thrown into Newworld, where the gene for magic has been cut out of people several generations before and people believe that science is the only thing that people need. There’s a lot of slang used that threw me off a little bit since I wasn’t quite sure what it meant in the beginning. A glossary would have been helpful. But once I got past the first few chapters, I started to pick up on the meanings for different words and the slang didn’t stick out as much.
Everyone in all of the ‘worlds’ – Newworld, Oldworld, Farworld, etc. fear cobeys. For a good portion of the book, it’s not really explained what cobeys exactly are, other than that they are really bad magical occurences that make people disappear. Maggie, our main character, has always believed she doesn’t have any magic. Until she starts seeing strange shadows everywhere, especially around her stepfather, Val. Which takes her dislike of him to a new level. The strange things don’t stop though and Maggie starts to realize she might not be so separate from magic as she thinks.
I really enjoyed all the secondary characters in this book as well. Her best friend is Jill, along with Taks, a half Japanese boy in her school. Both of them are hiding secrets of their own but I absolutely adored Taks. He grows to be more than a friend to Maggie and their relationship was beyond amazing. Seriously, I didn’t think I was going to love it but I did, so much! Of course we can’t forget Maggie’s dog Mongo, a border collie, or any of the other animals at the shelter where Maggie volunteers, including a 30lb Maine Coon cat named Majid who seems a little too perceptive for a regular cat. McKinley writes such wonderful personalities into her animals and you can tell she’s spent a lot of time caring for and training her own animals. It really makes the book a joy to read.
The magic in this book is so unique as well. I honestly can’t remember another book that’s even slightly similar to it. Maggie’s use of it includes origami, which I thought was so cool, and i’m saying this as someone who can barely fold a paper airplane.
Most of all, I just really loved how complete I felt the world was. I was living in this world of magic, origami, and wonderful animals. And most of all, Maggie is written as a teenager. A wonderfully brilliant, talented and funny teenager. It’s so great to see YA books where the teenager is visibly her age with the mistakes that come along with it, but she’s also brave and independent. It’s hard to encompass all my feelings about this book into a review. And this weird, magical little book might not be for everyone. But if you love fantasy, animals and fun, believable characters, you should definitely give this a try.