YA Review: Shadows by Robin McKinley

January 15, 2016     booklovi     Book review, Uncategorized

YA Review: Shadows by Robin McKinleyShadows by Robin McKinley
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on September 26th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

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.

My Review

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.

4 Stars

About Robin McKinley

Born in her mother’s hometown of Warren, Ohio, Robin McKinley grew up an only child with a father in the United States Navy. She moved around frequently as a child and read copiously; she credits this background with the inspiration for her stories.

Her passion for reading was one of the most constant things in her childhood, so she began to remember events, places, and time periods by what books she read where. For example, she read Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book for the first time in California; The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time in New York; The Lord of the Rings for the first time in Japan; The Once and Future King for the first time in Maine. She still uses books to keep track of her life.

McKinley attended Gould Academy, a preparatory school in Bethel, Maine, and Dickinson College in 1970-1972. In 1975, she was graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College. In 1978, her first novel, Beauty, was accepted by the first publisher she sent it to, and she began her writing career, at age 26. At the time she was living in Brunswick, Maine. Since then she has lived in Boston, on a horse farm in Eastern Massachusetts, in New York City, in Blue Hill, Maine, and now in Hampshire, England, with her husband Peter Dickinson (also a writer, and with whom she co-wrote Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits in 2001) and two lurchers (crossbred sighthounds).

Over the years she has worked as an editor and transcriber (1972-73), research assistant (1976-77), bookstore clerk (1978), teacher and counselor (1978-79), editorial assistant (1979-81), barn manager (1981-82), free-lance editor (1982-85), and full-time writer. Other than writing and reading books, she divides her time mainly between walking her “hellhounds,” gardening, cooking, playing the piano, homeopathy, change ringing, and keeping her blog.

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