Check out what I thought about a new YA Fantasy Retelling of Rapunzel!
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.
But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.
With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
Thanks to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC!
REIGN OF SHADOWS was an enjoyable read. I flew through it, and it had nothing to do with its slim volume. It kept me turning the pages and rooting for the main characters, Luna and Fowler. Despite my enjoyment though, there were a lot of things I disliked about the novel.
My biggest complain is that there’s no reason for it to be a 2 book series. So little actually happens in book 1 that some of the romantic tension could have been cut to add in more plot and conflict that has to do with Luna’s true identity, the secret she’s keeping, and how it affects her world. A lot of scenes are repetitive and don’t establish anything new. Luna and Fowler trek through the forest and bump into people and have sexual tension and almost kiss but then don’t and then do more walking and almost kiss again. The interesting stuff like the bounty hunters slaughtering teenage girls and the main plot line of Luna being the true heir to the throne are barely present. Sometimes I also felt Luna was kept from making decisions purely to stretch the thin plot.
There isn’t really an ending since it just ends on a massive cliffhanger very abruptly, after a massive plot twist is revealed. I have no problem with a cliffhanger when it feels natural, like some questions have been answered or a character arc has progressed, but this book was devoid of character arcs for me and the world building still left so many questions (a forest in a world that has no sun? what do dwellers look like/what are they/how did they even come to be? how does the city above the trees have a lake?), that the end doesn’t provide any closure while still leaving the story open. It just cuts out, like if you were in a movie theater and the screen goes black in the middle of the film.
As a Rapunzel retelling, it had some interesting subversions. I liked that Luna was blind instead of her “prince.” I just don’t know if she was written as Magical Disabled Person instead of simply a normal disabled person who knows how to take care of herself and isn’t solely her disability. Luna has a lot of skills, but I don’t know how she could maneuver around foreign parts of the forest without a walking stick or anything perfectly. Maybe that’s just my ignorance.
While this is a retelling, it also reads like a romance novel. Words like “heady” and “sinew” were used multiple times, which isn’t a big deal, but it just changes the feel or aesthetic of the novel. The plot was basically made up of romantic tension and almost kisses, as mentioned. I’d also call it insta-love, though some might dispute me on that point. Also, the first “moment” they share when Fowler nearly kisses her seemed to come out of nowhere, since he was very closed off before then. Fowler and Luna both fulfilled some very common, cliche romance tropes. Fowler is the gruff alpha male closed off to love, and Luna is the bright-eyed, optimistic innocent girl. I just wish something else was done with their characters so the trope wasn’t so pronounced.
Despite that, I still enjoyed this story! Fowler and Luna had some great sass, their POVs flowed well, and I liked the side characters of Perla and Sivo. I hope we see them again! Side note: When Luna leaves the tower and begins to run out of food Perla gave her and she had feels, that gave me feels. Loved that.
Some might be bothered by the pace of the novel, but I wasn’t. The lead up to the end feels vaguely episodic with stuff Happening, Dramatic Break Ups and Getting Back Together compared to how slow the previous 250 pages were. All in all, REIGN OF SHADOWS needs some fine tuning, but kept me hooked to the page. Recommended for romance and fairy tale fans, rather than someone looking for a good fantasy.
Favorite Quote (From an ARC, so check the final version)
“Being a little dangerous in this world was a requirement.”
Maybe Fowler…? 🙂