Published: 11 September 2012
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.
The cover photo resembles a friend of mine, who is completely obsessed with Lord of the Rings, enjoys archery, loves fairy tales, and frequently quotes A Song of Ice and Fire. It seemed fitting that, once I picked up this book to read the jacket, this was the first installment of a trilogy about a country under political unrest, filled with Anglo-Irish folklore, and a young girl on a journey to a faraway rebel encampment.
I’m fascinated with the cultural transition from Irish fairies to cute little Tinkerbell pixies, and this book was completely filled with all of the good and bad characteristics of these long-forgotten creatures. The names and places — Neryn, Brollachan Brig — were extremely Gaelic in tone, and I became very nostalgic for folklore of the past. Marillier skillfully crafted Neryn’s difficult trek across the country with moments of reflection, heartbreak, illness, joy, companionship, and discovery. Like what most people say about Lord of the Rings, this first installment is “basically full of walking, eating, and sleeping,” but the characters Neryn meets along the way, the determination to survive, and the bits and pieces we learn about the world kept the pace of the story quick.
I am very interested to see how Flint, the double agent, and Neryn continue to grow with the second book. I want to see her sculpt her talents, learn self-defense, grow with the other women in Shadowfell. I want to know what happens to Flint, how he is treated by King Keldec, and what Keldec’s court is like. It would not surprise me if the second book contains two perspectives throughout as it builds to the final battle! And finally, what about the Good Folk? Will they join the fight or watch from the edges? Will they come out of hiding?