Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Hellllluur, friends. Welcome to Take #1 of my TBR Jar book reviews. (If you didn’t get a chance to see what the TBR Jar is all about, I’m linking the introduction post –> TBR Jar :: Introductions) Let me kick this off by saying I STILL haven’t decided on a way to “rate” these so we’re just going to see what happens on my imaginary scale. Here we go:
Reign of Shadows Rating: “Two Day Old Pizza You Nuked in the Microwave”
**So, not terrible but…not that wonderful either. (It’s still pizza, after all.)
Genre? YA Fantasy
Standalone or series? Book #1 of a series
Time involved? Knocked it out in two days.
First things first, the cover is what drew me in. It’s beautifully dark and the book jacket has that satiny texture we all love so much on our fingertips. I took the picture above but I wish there was a way I could let you touch it, too. It’s got a great feel. (Hey, if you’re a book lover, you know exactly what I mean.) Here’s the thing – I was well aware what I was getting into because I stalked Reign of Shadows previously on Goodreads and saw the average review was 3 (or less) stars. Earlier this year, I read Firelight by Jordan (a dragon story) and it left me with unfulfilled expectations, lukewarm feelings, and countless eye rolls – so, I knew I was probably stepping into another Bullshit Box trap. (If you’re new to my antics – my Bullshit Box is an actual box in the laundry room where I toss books in for donation. Don’t ever ask me about the Box.) I’m a glutton for punishment though – plus a firm believer in second chances and in the end, the pretty packaging won me over.
“The world was a merciless place. Hard and cruel.
Except when you found someone to trust and love.
Life, however fleeting, possessed meaning then.”
― Sophie Jordan,
In RoS, we are introduced to a world of darkness. An eclipse has pretty much snuffed out all life other than “dwellers” – a creepy type of zombie/poisonous suckerfish. Those still kickin’ exist in fear and bathe in a pool of selfish motivation. The previous king and queen were killed the night the eclipse took hold by a man of power who wished to make himself king. Their newborn baby barely escaped the same fate.
Fast forward many years to a tower, hidden in the woods, mostly safe from the deep dwellers and the darkness. Here exists said princess along with the maid who saved her life when she was a wee thing and the castle guard who spirited them away that terrifying night.
Enter the love interest. You know – the buff one with mad fighting skills and a voice capable of turning the girl’s bones into melted butter.
Thus begins a journey forced out of necessity to get the girl to safety when the “King” declares all girls be put to death from the age 15-20. Previously mentioned love interest will be her unhappy (but bound by duty) escort across the forest and against the dwellers.
Soon, the girl discovers the humans they meet on their voyage are much more frightening than the monstrous creatures of the dark. Even after realizing she’s been sheltered the entirety of her life, she refuses to let go of her “gentler” methods and rebukes her companion for being cold/unfeeling/dickheaded. (But DROOL. He’s still so perfect.)
In the end, we discover the pair become separated and disaster colors the horizon.
Insert foreboding music and girl bravely preparing herself for the worst.
Alright. Things I liked include:
1. The ominous feel of the darkness in the beginning = the first few paragraphs went well. The narrative depiction was callous, raw, and cringe worthy.
2. The premise of the female MC having a handicap. (No spoilers.)
3. Creepy lake scene complete with even creepier water monsters.
Things I struggled with:
1. The instalove. Oh, good Lawhhhhd. The instalove. Okay. Wait. There is a tiny chunk of my heart which refuses to give up on the idea of love at first sight. I admit it, alright? But this girl was just enthralled from the moment she catches him naked. ENTHRALLED little tower girl.
2. The fact the female MC had a handicap – A MAJOR HANDICAP – and it was barely a part of her. COME ON. So much potential wasn’t siezed.
3. The gooeyness of fate and a “wise old woman” seeing them for the lovers they were. Eckkkk.
I actually don’t mind those things, y’all, if handled correctly. I love me some cheeseball romance but there is a delicate balance.
4. That the female MC is 100% self sufficient. You go girl. Really. But this is definitely a fantasy. (Not that people with this particular disability don’t kick ass at life – but some of it? Way too unrealistic.)
5. The shallowness. “Am I pretty?” “But do you think I’m pretty?” “So, you think I’m pretty.” Agh. YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER. Focus, stupid.
6. The “hints” which weren’t really hints at all. They were blatantly obvious.
I’ll leave you with this – I don’t regret reading it. There were pages which made me smile, pages which sparked my pulse, and moments which made me sad for the MCs. Honestly. Jordan has an interesting way with dialogue – sharp, to the point, intact. There is no “fluffery” which I appreciate since I can’t seem to write anything without fluff. She’s direct and executes an offensive approach – she uses a very firm period. Her sentences have bite. She also had some worldbuilding which I found fascinating – think The Walking Dead blended with octopus tentacles and sludgy marsh. I LOVE when the female MC isn’t depicted as “needing to be saved” – even though there are moments when it is definitely required. And her male MC fit his mold to a T: broody, distant, but gooey on the inside and longing for connection.
<<drum roll please>>
Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Peace, love, and apple juice –