Anya was tearing through her batch of middle-grade fantasy ARCs so quickly that I wondered if I would have a chance to beat her to Shadow Magic!! Happily, I won this particular race and had the delightful experience of meeting young Lily Shadow and her unexpected friend Thorn, along with a diverse collection of supporting characters that include a giant bat and a black puppy named Custard.
This engaging story is a page-turner with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It is certainly easy enough for younger readers to manage, although there are a few episodes that might be upsetting or disturbing to some children.
Note: I received an advanced copy of SHADOW MAGIC from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 12, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
- I loved the characters. Every single one was unique and had more complexity than I’ve come to expect from middle-grade books. Generally, the major and secondary characters either were not quite what they seem at first, or they grow to meet the challenges of the book in believable ways.
- The main character is a teen-aged girl, recently orphaned, who steps up and meets the challenges before her. She has support from relatives and a governess, but young Lily surprises them … and herself … as she is put into a very difficult situation and figures her way out of it.
- I am also a sucker for a book in which female characters prove that they can do what everyone says they cannot. In this case, Lily gets support and encouragement from an unexpected source, which makes it doubly delicious.
- The magic system is interesting and unique. Each noble family has a particular set of talents, which has its strengths and weaknesses … keeping the six kingdoms in a balance of power that shifts slightly with each generation.
- A giant bat. Seriously. It’s just another mark of the originality of this book. Everyone has dragons … and we love dragons …. but making a sympathetic character out of a giant bat is pure genius.
- There’s a description of death by fire that was rather graphic and unexpected in a book for children.
I just finished it, and I am already excited for the next book in the series, promised for next year. So, yes, I recommend it highly with that one little caveat in case you have a young reader in your family with a particular fear of fire.
Fans of Rick Riordan or the Harry Potter series will probably really enjoy this fantasy adventure.
See for yourself!
SHADOW MAGIC by JOSHUA KHAN
© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.