I have followed E. Kathryn and the Shadows series since I first beta read the first book. You can find reviews for Fire’s Hope and Laevatein’s Choice at their respective links.
Halo’s Rag Doll (The Shadows: Book 3)
Author: E. Kathryn
Amazon Link – PRE-ORDER at time of review!
First, I received an ARC copy in return for an honest review. I don’t normally do this for people, but I’ve followed E. Kathryn for quite a while and think I can do a good review. I did also beta read, but so much changed between the version I read and this final, polished version that I can be completely honest.
Second, this is YA. VERY YA. I really do think that a teen would enjoy this more than an adult, and I think E. Kathryn does a great job really digging into that teen vibe.
On With The Review
Wow – even compared to Laevatein’s Choice, the second book in the series, Halo’s Rag Doll is incredibly complex and ambitious. The story follows a set of kids with superpowers – well, it’s more complicated than just superpowers, but roll with me for a hot second – as they take a journey in search of a powerful fellow Shadow. It’s a powerfully plot-centered book, but in this one the main characters (Mark, Sil, Kip, Emilie, January, and a couple brand new characters) start to get more adult emotions, drives, and personalities. The plot is what’ll hook you, but the characters are what you’ll remember. The huge cast starts to come together more in this book, and their personalities more distinct.
As you might suspect, the journey becomes one of self-discovery and growth. The delve into the wilderness becomes both literal and figurative. I like how the sort of Moses leading the Israelites feeling/analogy that I read into the first book in the series continues here, especially as the main characters navigate using their powers. This is the first book in the series where the characters reveal some of the deep aspects of the worldbuilding that connect the entire series together. The book, like the other two, wraps up the major plot threads at the end, but I’m really, REALLY hoping E. Kathryn comes up with a fourth book. (WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING, KIMBERLY!? ALSO THAT LAST LINE IN THE BOOK IS KILLING ME!)
Something I think was handled very well was continuing the story from book 2. (Spoiler for book 2 ahead) In Laevatein’s Choice, pretty much all the characters get disturbed by some rather violent events. Main character Mark was left physically handicapped. That mental disturbance and physical disability isn’t just handwaved away in Halo’s Rag Doll – no, the characters are still working through that, even though the book takes place two years following the events of Laevatein’s Choice. The kids also respond to everything in a more kid-like manner, and the adults can have more adult viewpoints. I think Keller in this book is exactly as steadfast and reliable as we want him to be, even if he’s not as present as he was in prior books.
Also, in Laevatein’s Choice, we got a peak into Mark’s romantic life with Rita. That love story makes for a great b-plot, and I think the underlying messages about abusive relationships, growing up, forgiveness, and letting go are major parts of this.
There are two major flaws with this book. One is that you absolutely, positively must read both Fire’s Hope and Laevatein’s Choice before you read this one. While there’s enough refresher at the front end that someone who read the books a while back can re-acclimatize to the world, I fully believe there’s simply no way a reader new to the series would enjoy this. You go straight into the deep end with some really complex world mechanics here, and it includes everything you’ve learned in books 1 and 2, then adds some things.
If you don’t read the first two books, the character named “New” will make no sense. Novas will seem like they’re out of nowhere. Kimberly’s infusion will be pure witchcraft. If you have read the first two books, you can enjoy the build, the new ideas, and the characterization that go along with a straightforward (though FILLED WITH GREAT TWISTS) plot.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
Hey, I don’t do spoilers for recent books, but I wanted to tell y’all some stuff I know from behind the scenes.
E. Kathryn took a lot longer to write this book than the other two. I saw an early draft (VERY early) not too long after Laevatein’s Choice debuted, and boy. Boy was the ambition there, but the execution just took it all over the place. Kathryn did a lot of self reflection and put a ton of work into this. This published version? IT WORKS. It’s great. Everything that happens flows, and the build to the self-discovery elements is at the center of it all. I’m thrilled to see such a good final product, and I’m really glad E. Kathryn put in all the work to make this book really fantastic.
If you’re eager to look into a story about teens growing up and deciding who they are without sacrificing plot, this book continues to build on top of what we’ve already seen.
What I’m Reading Next:
Look, my computer died and I’ve read books that didn’t get a review in the meantime. I’m going to have to be playing catch up soon. Right now I’m on my work computer, though (shhhhhh), so I’ve not got as much leeway as usual.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing has been read, and it’s coming Monday!