I read E. Kathryn’s first installation in The Shadows series because I beta read the book. You can find that review here. I also beta’d this one, so I can go ahead and tell you that this one is gonna be straight-up great. I’m excited to see the changes between the beta version and the final version!
The Shadows: Laevatein’s Choice
Author: E. Kathryn
This is a YA book about kids with superpowers. The source of these powers, when we left off at the end of Fire’s Hope, was mysterious. There seemed to be a lot more to what it meant to be one of these people, and it had that air of mystery even though there was a definitive end to it.
And, like I said, I beta read this book. I put that up front on my blog reviews because it could be considered a conflict of interest. However, I’ve never asked E. Kathryn anything in return for my beta reading, and I bought the book with my own money.
Ok, so, the good thing is I can confirm this book is great. There’s a powerful sense of plot here, and Mark as a character can be related to. The book gets into some pretty dark themes of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and adult manipulation of teens, but it’s done in such a wonderful manner that I think teens not only can read this book on their own, but should.
I grew up in a less-than-ideal household, one perhaps most similar to the one presented as Emilie’s in Laevatein’s Choice. (Mild spoiler for the rest of the paragraph, maybe?) In Emilie’s plotline, she struggles to convince anyone else that her mother and father aren’t great for her or each other. The way adults and other kids downplay her concerns is so awful, but also terrifyingly realistic. The struggles within Mark’s family after Mark goes through the massive changes in Book 1, Fire’s Hope, are also very interesting.
Something plot-related but not spoilerific is that what I consider the climax happens pretty early. Even so, the rest of the book leaves this ever-present air of tension that doesn’t let up until right when it needs to. Also, good hint: read this book while you work out. I read the final version of this as my “workout read”, and I definitely suggest doing that with this book. The physical oomph of this book makes it perfect for that cause.
Issues with the book are some that I tend to have with many indie books and many series. The first is that you’ll have to read Fire’s Hope in order to understand Laevatein’s Choice. While Fire’s Hope is good, it definitely feels like an author’s first book and like one written by a young author. It also doesn’t have a similar feel or gravity to Laevatein’s Choice, which could be disconcerting to people unprepared for the shift. The second is that you’ll run upon a few sentences that feel awkward or contain typos, but Kathryn’s writing has improved between the two books and I was interested enough in the plot and characters to forgive these few mistakes.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
I know, I know; you’re going to say, “H.R.R., you scoundrel of a human being, you like plot-centered books.”
Guilty. As. Charged.
In this book, we meet up with some of the characters from Fire’s Hope and see how they’re coping with newfound freedom after escaping Superhero School/Prison. Some, like Sil, are faring well, while others, like Emilie, are going through some deep sh*t. The secondary characters’ plots are fantastic, and I thought the changes in Emilie’s situation were well-done.
However, Mark’s story is fantastic. His desire to be a winner, his desire to finally best Sil at something, and his need to feel welcomed draw him into a toxic relationship with a sensei. No, it’s not sexy or anything untoward in a manner you wouldn’t let your kid read it – it’s toxic in that Geoffery sensei belittles Mark, pushes him too far, delights in athletic injuries. Oh man, all the hints were there, but somehow I didn’t expect it on first read when Geoffery freaking turns on Mark and just destroys him with the sword Morglay. Geoffery, who reveals himself to be a quarter of the evil Shadow Strength, has made Mark into another vessel of Strength for reasons unknown.
The back 40% of the book examines the changes and struggles between Mark’s friends and family as they rush to save him. Secrets about his father’s origins and amnesia are revealed, Shadow magic is done, and much is explained about the universe. Though Laevatein’s Choice ends with a satisfying conclusion to the main story, it has set up for Book 3 very well.
I’m moving on to a new month, so stay tuned to see what I read next!