Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Shadows by Robin McKinley

In Shadows Robin McKinley has built another world I want to see more of. I initially was not that happy with the concept of the magic-using world vs. the technology-only world. I have my jaded-reader moments when I think "I've seen that before." But it was McKinley, and I will always read books by McKinley, so I read it, and of course, I hadn't seen it before, and I loved it.

Maggie's new stepfather may make her mother smile, but he comes complete with terrible taste in shirts, an odd accent, and far, far too many shadows. The shadows are oddly shaped and they don't move the way they should. Maggie has enough to handle dealing with her senior year of high school, hauling around an enormous Algebra book, and helping out at the animal shelter to cope with shadows that shouldn't be there, and that she shouldn't be seeing anyway. Then she meets a handsome young man who recognizes her stepfather, gaps in reality start opening near her town, and the army moves in to help out, and magic, which should not exist in Newworld, where Maggie lives, becomes increasingly important.

I'm always happier as a reader when I like the narrator, and I liked Maggie. McKinley avoids making her the horrible sullen teen who dislikes people for no reason. Maggie is prejudiced against her stepfather because he is her stepfather (and because of his shirts), but she only really dislikes him because she is terrified by the shadows that come with him. And, even then, she mostly tried to avoid him rather than starting a confrontation. She also has a group of friends she spends time with plus some closer friends that she's known for years, and I do love a good, strong friendship. Both aspects of Maggie--her difficulty with her family and her good friendships--are portrayed well. The details and love that go into animal care help ground the more fantastical bits, and the two types of work complement one another.

There are several memorable characters in here. Maggie and her friends, Takahiro and Jill are strong protagonists. Her hyper dog, Mongo, "a hairy attack squad carooming off the walls and trying to fetch pieces of furniture so somebody would throw them for him" is a standout. The shadows develop as the book goes on as well. I think my favorite, though, has to be the most unexpected: an Algebra book. Like Maggie, I disliked my math classes, so it was surprising, funny, and good to find a truly useful textbook in the subject.

Shadows is a good read, by the writer of Beauty and Sunshine both, something to curl up with and be happy. It's closer in kin to Beauty, in that while it has difficult choices and deep troubles, it will not take you to some of the truly dark places Sunshine inhabits. Sunshine, while a book I like, is not going on my comfort-read shelf. Beauty has had a place there for years, and Shadows might gain one (It's hard to tell. "Comfort reads" develop over the years). Like Sunshine, it has a more complex world-building and a strong sense that there is more to do yet. This means that, like Sunshine, it has a perfectly good, perfectly respectable ending, and it still leaves me hungry for more.

Did you read Shadows? What did you think?

Other Reviews
Books with Bite

Links of Interest
Shadows on Amazon.
Your library (No, I can't actually link to your library, but if you don't have your library's catalog bookmarked or haven't memorized the address, it's time you did).
Robin McKinley's blog (Which just distracted me. Again.)

Publication Details
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (September 26, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399165797
ISBN-13: 978-0399165795

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  1. I enjoyed Shadows a lot! And I wasn't truly expecting to. I love Beauty and Sunshine and Deerskin, but the rest of Robin McKinley's books, eh, I could live without them. Weirdly, Sunshine is a TOTAL comfort book to me. It's a book I reread more than almost any of my other books, even though it is extremely dark and creepy.

    Doesn't Shadows make you wish that Robin McKinley ever, ever wrote sequels? I'd have loved to read a whole next book about Maggie and all her friends teaming up with their different kinds of magics to do capers and fight evil.

    1. Yes! I want a sequel so much! They have a whole new world to build, and the anti-magic forces have to be sorted out and made useful (because, on some level, some of what they did worked, and why throw out the baby with the bathwater?), and we barely even met Maggie's aunts, and I want to meet Maggie's aunts!

      I like Sunshine, but I prefer something gentler for the comfort shelf.

      I first read Beauty when I was around ten, or so, so it has a very long, settled place in my life, which also helps in a comfort book.

      Deerskin was an extremely well-written book that tackled abuse and rape and survival very, very well, and I'm glad Mckinley wrote it, and I am never, ever going to read it again.