Shadowfell (Shadowfell No.1) – Juliet Marillier
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2012
In Alban, only the king’s inner circle are permitted to practice magic. Anyone else even suspected of being ‘canny’ must bury their gift deep or risk drawing down the Enforcers, who slaughter anyone in their way and torch whole villages as a warning to others. Fifteen-year-old Neryn has been living on the road ever since her home met such a fate, balanced uneasily between survival and disaster. When her father makes a terrible bargain, she is compelled to seek a place in the far north, a rallying point for rebels against the king’s regime that may be nothing more than a dreamer’s story. But first Neryn has to survive the journey…
This is the first book in Western Australian author Juliet Marillier’s latest YA series. Well-known for her historical fantasy, particularly the Sevenwaters series, this is her first novel set in a fictional world. The world-building is uneven and depends heavily on clichés; while I enjoyed Marillier’s attention to everyday detail, too much is told rather than shown. I was also extremely frustrated by the constant pressure on Neryn to be more forgiving. Given the world she lives in, being paranoid seems an entirely natural survival trait and not something she should be shamed for! I don’t feel this book is a very good representative of Marillier’s writing – her first YA novel Wildwood Dancing was what introduced me to her work and was, for me at least, much more enjoyable. The Shadowfell series continues with Raven Flight.