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REVIEW: Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

Dear Ms. Moning,

ShadowFever delivered all the answers I wanted to know about your fascinating world of human and Fae, and yet, after my late-night read-a-thon I feel about ShadowFever like Mac feels about herself through much of the book: bipolar.

Shadowfever by Karen Marie MoningShadowFever is the culmination of the search for the Sinsar Dubh, a ageless Fae book of immense power that gives its reader the key to the Song of Making-‘the ability to create life. The fifth book in the Fever series, this story could have been a mad dash to the finish line if it wasn't bloated with internal character thoughts and philosophical musings on good and evil. I have to admit, I often skimmed paragraphs that weren't essential to moving the story forward. Some of this would have been okay, but I thought the book often got bogged down in unnecessary detail. For those of us who are already deeply invested in this series, it's interesting, but even I, a Fever-aholic, thought it was too much. I imagine readers who are luke-warm on the series will find it irritating.

Yes, the book delivers exactly what I wanted. Yet, as a stand-alone book, ShadowFever doesn’t work. It's a book that offers answer, drama, more answers, more drama, on and on, until it ends. For someone who hasn’t read all the other books, the big revelations won’t mean much, they’ll just be “oh, okay” moments, and because the answers and drama refer to so many events that occur in previous books, I think it would fall flat for a new-to-Moning reader.

I found reading ShadowFever to be a bit like riding a roller coaster. The emotional ups and downs were tremendous. I was by turns sad, excited, angry, elated, and chanting "Go Mac!" Then I'd get bogged down in character ruminations (which I skimmed), before the action would start up again.

There's a big mystery of "is she or isn't she' through the latter half of the book. Going into ShadowFever my burning question was "What is Barrons?' But that's not the right question (although it is a valid question that is answered). The real question is "What is Mac?' The quest for the answer keeps the tension ratcheted up; it's also responsible for a lot of Mac's long internal ruminations. And, yes, dear readers, the answer is revealed. In fact, no question goes unanswered in ShadowFever's 507 pages.

I was absolutely blind-sided by who was responsible for Alina's death (Alina is Mac's sister and it's her death that starts Mac's quest for the Sinsar Dubh). I should have seen it coming (hints were dropped in book 4) but I didn't. There were moments when it felt like my heart stopped and this was one of them. Learning the truth made me sad and reminded me that a recurring theme in ShadowFever is the loss of innocence.

Characters from eleven different books make appearances (often very brief) in ShadowFever. Except in a couple of scenes their cameos aren't necessary for the telling of this story, and their appearances add to the massive length of this book. On the other hand, those of us who've been with you since the Highlander series have an opportunity to meet some beloved characters again.

In the end, I believe the Fever series would have made a really great single book. The time investment for those of us who started reading it in 2006 is probably a large part of why we're so passionate about the books-‘we've been thinking about Mac and Barrons for more than 1000 pages over FIVE YEARS. I suspect their story could have been told in 450 pages or less. B-.



********THIS MIGHT BE A SPOILER*********

P.S. The last scene at the end of the book was complete schlock. The Barrons I've come to know would never be the guy working the grill at a BBQ.

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The first book Jaclyn can recall reading all by herself was Cinderella (a pink Disney edition) and all these years later she remains an avid reader of fairy tales, myths, and historical romances. Jaclyn's TBR also overflows with science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, contemporary, thrillers, and mystery. During the workday she can be found navigating the digital transformation at a university press.


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  2. Mandi Schreiner
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 13:27:42

    I think I have a slightly unnatural obsession with this series so my opinion is a bit skewed. LOL. I just love this world so much that I would have read 2000 pages by her. But I have heard this criticism from others. I felt like KMM had so much to wrap up from the previous books that I’m glad she took her time in this one. I agree the cameos by the highlander boys probably weren’t needed..but I was kind of hoping they would appear :)

    My biggest complaint with the book is with Fiona – I don’t understand why she was privy to all the information about Barrons..when it was SUCH a big deal Mac or no one else could know. (unless I missed something).

    And hey – at least Barrons was disgusted by what he was doing at the grill ;) LOL.

  3. Stephanie
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 13:56:35

    I dont think that Fiona knew what Barrons was. From the dialog in this book I took it as she was mad when told Mac knew … but I did read it really fast and am now in the middle of reading the entire series again so I could be wrong.

  4. Mandi Schreiner
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 14:16:39

    There was that one scene in Dreamfever where Barrons stabs Fiona before she can tell Mac something…I always thought she knew about Barrons – but now that I think about it – I guess we don’t ever really know how much Fiona knew.

  5. Gina
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 16:50:44

    I was waiting for a review! My love / hate relationship with the Fever series is no secret. Every book I said “this will be my last, its not worth the wait, the cliff hangers, the torture of not knowing!” and yet I would cave again and again. Now the ending sits on my nook, taunting me, because I MUST know what happens but 500 more pages to get there? I’m emotionally exhausted and I haven’t started reading!

    That said you answered one very huge question for me… Barrons. The way book 4 ended, the fact that there never really seemed to be a romantic HEA on the horizon had me wondering if Moning was committing the ultimate sin and killing off my favorite character. Had he not been mentioned in your review I would not now be picking up my nook to start the final torment (tissue box at the ready).

    You summed it up so perfectly – five years!! when it would have made a really fabulous single novel. The shame is that I will not be so quick to buy into a Moning series in the future.

  6. J.
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 19:17:33

    I heard a lot about this series but I haven’t started it yet because I HATE cliffhangers and waiting. I was just wondering before I start the first book…is this the last book of the series or is there more?

  7. Jaclyn
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 19:46:02

    @Mandi and @Stephanie The Fiona stuff was part of what I considered the book’s bloat. I understand the purpose she served, but found her appearances unnecessary–the information she conveys could have been delivered in other ways. As for whether or not she knew what Barron’s was, I don’t think she could have known given how his friends responded to the possibility that Mac might learn what he was.

    @Gina Definitely read ShadowFever! All of your questions will be answered. If you love Barrons (I like him, too…) be prepared for an emotional roller coaster. After chapter 2 I was a little sick, and more than a little pissed off. But stick with it and keep the tissues handy.

    @J. The series ends with this book. I think Moning has set us up for more books set in this world (if she chooses to write them), but this particular story is done.

  8. DeeCee
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 21:35:48

    I’m glad Mac’s fever stories are done, b/c if this had been say 5/6 bks I don’t know if I would have jumped to buy the next. When I was rereading the series in preparation for SF I made myself a list of questions I wanted answered and a good chunk of the major ones were. But so many new ones were introduced here. Like who is Dancer? That was such a loaded lead in to the next series she writes which will be in the fever world. I was so let down by what happened to Darroc though. All that lead up to the big bad showdown, and he gets K’Vrucked. WTF??? But all the internal back and forth was just coma inducing. I know Moning Maniacs were thrilled when she announced that it was such a huge book, but I wish her editor would have stepped up and eliminated most of it. I rated it the same grade, but it wasn’t as good as I would have hoped. Maybe next years book will wow me. ;)

  9. Jaclyn
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 22:26:25


    Dancer is a passing fancy; Dani is destined for Ryodan. ;)

    When Darroc got K’Vrucked I had a WTF just happened moment, too. For four previous books (plus The Immortal Highlander) Darroc was the big, bad wolf. Then: K’Vruck! I literally laugh out loud. Well, it was more of an uncontrollable bark of surprise, but you get the idea.

  10. Gwen Hayes
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 01:45:58

    I just finished, about ten minutes ago, and am still processing. I think this one went a little too fantasy for me.

    And I felt that Mac became too epic. Part of the charm of the series for me was that she’d always been sort of bumbling through and doing the best she could. In this book, it seems like everyone just had to have her.

    But I was glad to tie up the loose ends.

    *I could have done without the bbq.

  11. Lana
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 03:34:43

    I have to acknowledge both Moning and her publishers for their marketing acumen, considering that I read this entire series even though I found it frustrating. I am sure that the publishers would have like to bring the books out closer together as the series probably lost quite a few readers along the way, but I read somewhere that Moning has health problems that prevented going any faster.
    I read and enjoyed Moning’s previous books for what they were, candy – a delicious little pleasure for a few hours of enjoyment after a difficult day. They were sexy and funny, sweet and fast. I did not expect or desire any philosophically profound insights. Nevertheless, I was willing to follow her into a darker place with the new series, simply because Mac and Barrons were an intriguing and fun couple, lightly drawn but vivid at the same time. What worked for the first two books was that we, as readers, were following along with Mac as she tried to figure out what was going on behind Dublin's streets. Dublin was absolutely necessary to this story as a real (or real in a touristy post-card sense) city. Once the walls between the fae and humans fell, the story completely lost its moorings. For me, fantasy is only effective when it keeps one foot in reality. Moning’s fairyland is completely insubstantial, both literally and descriptively. How could we as readers keep up with the story when the walls kept tumbling and fading? And how many pages were spent describing the pleasure dome of kubla khan, or wherever Mac kept ending up? Sorry, but Moning is not talented enough at poetic description to keep this interesting.
    Also, she skims past what are the most intriguing aspects of this fallen world. Only in passing at the end of the book, does Mac remind us that, oh by the way, 3 billion people have just been killed by flying monsters! Half the human population! But apparently this is a good thing because Mac can just take whatever fancy car or gadget she wants from off the streets (never mind that there wouldn't be any gas to drive them, I guess she can use fairydust or something). And what really irked me was a passing reference to how a headlamp device that wards off evil that she created is now selling across the world and in some places villages will trade a cow for one. Now I immediately started picturing these poor villagers in Africa or India, far from the fairy central of Dublin, being hunted and eaten by monsters. But Mac doesn't particularly care as she can just carry on feeling sorry for herself because her sister died (along with half the sisters in the world, but they don't matter) and having hot monster sex with Barrons in the basement.
    Moning does not seem to have any interest in dealing with the dystopia that she created. I wish she would go back to what she is best at.

  12. MikiS
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 21:10:28

    To me, this was a series with one of the most TSTL heroines ever. And I still don’t get the Barron’s adoration – he was downright abusive. I was cheering for Christian (pre-Silvers, anyway).

    And I agree with Lana – maybe I’ve read one too many post-apocalyptic novel, but Moning set up this whole idea that huge numbers of people were dead…without dealing with almost ANY of the long-term affects of that. No radio, no mail. Whoopee. What about no processed food for all those living in cities?! She went too far with in, given that she didn’t want to deal with it.

    And I don’t know what anyone else was thinking, but the introduction of all of Barron’s “men” just seemed like huge sequel bait to me.

    (I have to admit: I only read the first two books and got disgusted with the cliff hangers, so I waited until she was finished. Then I *listened* to the first four – and 1/3 of the fifth – as audiobooks. Mac’s whining tone and the mens’ growly voices really turned me off. I may have enjoyed this more if I’d just READ the books, rather than listened to them. I just haven’t had time to sit and read much lately, and audiobooks can be snuck into commuting time, mindless tasks at work, etc.)

  13. DeeCee
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 21:51:46


    Ryodan? No way. I’m thinking Kasteo. ;)

    I just reread The Immortal Highlander and I really wish that the timeline of how the Highland books intercept with the Fever series was explained. TIH takes place in 2004 and skips 5 years into the future where Gabby is pregnant with their third kid. In SF Gabby is pregnant. But is it 2009 or 2011? Argh?

  14. mary beth
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 22:03:46

    I listened to the series and loved it. Years ago I tried Highlander because all my friends were talking about Moning like she was a goddess. I didn’t finish the first book.
    But then I started the Fever series. During the forever wait on Shadowfever, I decided to try listening to the Highlander series. I’m glad I did, even though the last couple weren’t my favorites.
    I don’t know if I would have liked reading the Fever series. I like to “see” stories as I read. Listening to them worked.
    I enjoyed Mac’s transformation. At the end of the book where Mac gets captured by the Princes, the narrator says to trust her. That the darkest hours lead to the brightest dawns, or something to that effect. That’s what Shadowfever was for me.
    I almost didn’t trust Moning to deliver, but she did.
    I’m sad the series is over, but I’m thrilled she didn’t extend the series just to cash in. I hate when I love a series and it just fizzles.
    If you haven’t heard any of the series, just go listen to a sample on audible. Phil Gigante is a perfect Barrons. Sigh.

  15. shelleyannsmith
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 02:14:32

    “For someone who hasn't read all the other books, the big revelations won't mean much, they'll just be “oh, okay” moments, and because the answers and drama refer to so many events that occur in previous books, I think it would fall flat for a new-to-Moning reader.”

    Ummmm…duh??? Who the hell would even try to read the 5th book of a series plus try to actually get it?

    In response to the comments regarding the supposed insouciance of Mac in response to the 3 billion deaths, I guess I didn’t see it that way. I get that 3 billion people died and was suitably horrified but this was told from her POV (for the most part) and her life in the immediate vicinity of Dublin not from the POV of the rest of the world.

    And I did like that introspection and so forth of the characters throughout the book. I was constantly turning the pages saying to myself…WTF???? I haven’t done that with a book in a long, long time. LOL!

    One small niggle…would have loved some more POV from Barrons. Felt a little cheated…just sayin’.

  16. nitnot
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 15:40:38

    Okay, did I fall asleep (unknowingly, but totally possible) during parts of the book where they explained what Barrons was?

    Somebody! Please! TELL ME!

  17. Gwen Hayes
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 16:31:26


    Oh thank goodness, I thought I was the only one who didn’t get it. I’m guessing that maybe the reason he and his men were turned will be explained in the new series?

  18. Daisy
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 16:53:04

    As someone who started this ride from the beginning, way back in 2004 I have to say I was disappointed in the end. It just stopped – and not in a good way.

    I listen to people say that they laughed and cried, there were highs and lows, they were shocked and awed and I was just meh. There was nothing that was revealed in this book that wasn’t hinted at in other parts of the story.

    I absolutely agree with this – “this story could have been a mad dash to the finish line if it wasn't bloated with internal character thoughts and philosophical musings on good and evil.” There were pages and pages of unnecessary crap filling this book. The entire first chapter was Mac’s horror on death of who the beast really was. I got that a couple of paragraphs in, we could have moved on.

    For me also, several of the characters were changed and not for the better. I have never liked Barrons. Did not understand how anyone could read his character and think he was a choice of a mate for anyone, much less Mac. He was a manipulator, and a liar and much of what Mac suffered could have been stopped just by Barrons telling her the whole story, not just the parts that helped him out. I didn’t like him – but he was a great character, flawed, but well-written and I was curious to see where he would go next. The Barrons in Shadowfever was somehow less. And I didn’t find him interesting at all.

    As for the appearance of the Keltar’s and Adam Black – I was really disappointed that they were even there. I loved the Highlander books, but the guys who showed up in the Fever books were not the guys in those books. The Keltar’s were pissy little men, bickering amongst themselves and with others. And they brought their wives and children to Chester’s. Really? Your wives and children are safe, in a castle warded by the Queen of the Fae – and you bring them to Dublin, to the middle of the UnSeelie stronghold and put them at Chester’s? I don’t think so. Additionally there was absolutely no reason for Adam Black to make an appearance – other than that Moning’s fans were clamoring for him to be there, so she wrote him in. Cian had seen the Queen on a previous occasion and was perfectly capable of identifying her – Adam wasn’t needed.

    As for Fiona – apparently at the Q & A at Moning’s release party in NOLA someone asked why Fiona wasn’t killed by Barrons’ – the answer was that Fiona was a doormat and therefore not a threat, so there was no need to kill her. Right.

    As for what Barrons is – that is the one question that was not answered because if Mac was told, she would be killed – as Kasteo’s woman was killed; so if she doesn’t know, then the 8 have no reason to kill her. So she was okay with not knowing.

    Overall, the series was a solid C+ for me. Like others, I think it could have been told more effectively in fewer volumes. The editing could have been better to remove a lot of the inner musing of the characters and move the story along at a brisker pace and done away with Moning’s overuse of the cliffhanger devise, however, the five year wait allowed for greater marketing of Fever related merchandise and for Ms. Moning to get her husband’s singing career off the ground with his Fever related CD’s, and to push along Phil Gigante’s audiobook career (both of which are big, fat yucks in my opinion).

    I do know that Moning has both a graphic novel, featuring Mac and Barrons and another (at this point) 3 book series planned for the Fever world, set to feature Christian, Rhyodan and Dani. I also know that if the new series is told the way this one was, (one story over a 5-book arc) I won’t be reading it until it is all said and done. No more cliffhangers for me.

  19. nitnot
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 00:32:41

    @Gwen Hayes:

    That’s just it, I can’t take the non-answer anymore. Sequel baiting at this point is tasteless. I’m sorry but it is. 5 books and 5 years not enough?

    The reviewer (Jaclyn) wrote:

    “‘What is Barrons?' But that's not the right question (although it is a valid question that is answered). The real question is ‘What is Mac?' The quest for the answer keeps the tension ratcheted up; it's also responsible for a lot of Mac's long internal ruminations. And, yes, dear readers, the answer is revealed. In fact, no question goes unanswered in ShadowFever's 507 pages.”

    Now, I might really be having memory lapse but I don’t remember anywhere in the book explaining WHAT Barrons is.

  20. Jaclyn
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 09:30:51

    We were given information about Barrons’ and his friends’ origins. Not why they they were created, not how they were created, not by whom, but we were told some of the story of the beginning their existance as whatever they are now now–it was explained by Barrons when he was telling Mac about the monster under his garage.

    And, as I recall, they were given one name–was it book four?–though it was suggested this isn’t their true name, Mac remembers them being referred to as the “Damned”. We also have the description of his other form in book four, and some greater understanding of his capabilites throughout ShadowFever. I think we were given enough information about Barrons to satisfy the needs of the Fever series and I felt like I’d learned enough about him and his group of guys.

    @Lana’s point is heart-breaking. Three billion people dead; that’s *more* than the combined populations of China, India, and USA–41% of the people in the world die because the walls between human and Fae fell. I would have thought that the Sidhe-seers & the MacKeltars would be devestated; it was their responsibility to protect humanity and they totally, utterly failed. I don’t recall any one of them taking responsibility for that.

    This series was not about dealing with consequences, or about taking responsibility. It is solely about one young woman, MacKayla Lane, learning who she is, what she is capable of doing, and being honed into a weapon to find and contain the Sinsar Dubh. It’s also a story about the people & beings she encountered in that process. I don’t say that to excuse the story’s blindness about the devestation of the world, but I do think that explains why there was none–it was almost as if Moning was saying “Not thinking about that, people, this story is about Mac and that’s it.”

    Have any of you read the series Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody? This is a series set post-apocalypse, where humans have reverted to a pre-technological existence and a portion of humanshave developed psychic abilities (and are being hunted because of it). It’s wonderful; it it doesn’t turn away from the gritty reality of a world that was destroyed and rebuilt.

  21. Amy
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 13:03:40

    I finished Shadowfever last night (after re-reading the rest of the books last week), and I have to say that I was underwhelmed. Perhaps it is that I felt compelled to read it to just understand how the questions would be answered as opposed to reading for the characters. Perhaps it is because there were so MANY open questions that the book felt overburdened by exposition and the ballooning cast of characters. Perhaps it is because I felt that none of the main players really lived up to what I’d hope they would become. Mac certainly got answers to a lot of her personal questions, but I just wanted her to be MORE. (Maybe that is my own issue!) And Dani — well, I found her to just be annoying and one-dimensional in Shadowfever.

    The “net” of it for me is that my intellectual needs were met — most of my questions were answered in a satisfactory way; however, the emotion of the book just never got there for me. And I really think it is because the emotional / character story was just too overwhelmed by everything else.

    Grade C

  22. Diane
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 15:59:27

    How did Mac know that K'Vruck, a Royal Hunter could do that to Jericho’s son? Did I miss something?

  23. Jaclyn
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 16:10:50

    @Diane After ending Darroc’s life, K’Vruck said something to Mac along the lines of death isn’t always permanent but being ‘K’Vrucked’ is final and can’t be undone. I think Mac was wondering if Darroc would be able to come back to life, and K’Vruck was assuring her that it wasn’t going to happen.

  24. nitnot
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 06:02:28


    I have not read the series, but now I’m curious.

    As for Fever series not to address the post apocalypse issues, I was not expecting Moning to do that, not her style, so not disappointed.

    As for Barrons, the reason I’m not satisfied is because he is such a big player in the books, and as this is the end of the series I expect everything to be tied up. I know I sound like a kid whose mom won’t buy him the toy he wants in the dept store, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. I think. I hope. *g* Sorry, I do get emotional about books.

  25. Diane
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 13:33:15

    Thanks so much for the reply. That part was bothering me.

  26. Connie
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 13:30:24

    Since this is the last book of the series, I think the discussion as a stand-alone may be a little moot. I actually find many of the authors I’m currently enjoying in this genre are not writing stand-alone books. Come on~ Sookie Stackhouse is still going and Charlaine Harris seems to have no desire to write any faster. Some are better at making each book a stand-alone in a series with the same h/h than others but it’s always a lot more rewarding to start at the beginning. I started the series a week ago without knowing that Shawdowfever was the culmination of everything (imagine how happy I was when I found out at the end of the 4th book that the next one – which I already possess – was the end!!). Thank goodness it’s finished. The cliffhanger in the fourth book was just…mean. But she did publish within 3 months which is crazy considering the length of the last book.

    Given that…anyone who likes Nalini Singh or Ilona Andrews should definitely read this. Though I would give Ilona Andrews the win for the world building, and Nalini the win for romance, I do really enjoy the tension between Mac and Barrons. I really felt like their struggles with each other are very realistic given the situation (though I agonize about it). To be honest, I think the book description publishers provide really sucked. I saw this on Amazon’s bestsellers list for like months and I had zero desire to read it because of the description.

  27. Alf
    Mar 08, 2013 @ 08:16:16

    just wanna ask can k’vruck actually destroy the sinsar dubh?

  28. Alf
    Mar 08, 2013 @ 08:19:11

    since K’Vruck is so much more complete than death. It is the reduction of matter to a state of utter inertness, from which nothing can ever rise again. It is less than nothing. Nothing is something. So can K’vruck actually destroy the book?or is the book too strong?What if the royal hunter they actually know fae history like how fae knows human?

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