Dear Ms. Williams:
SPOILERS FOR THE SHADOW READER are contained in this review.
Here’s the thing I don’t understand. If fantasy books are supposed to be so hardcore, why are the female characters often depicted without agency? And if they aren’t considered romances, why is the primary conflict which hot guy to pick?
McKenzie Lewis was introduced to readers in The Shadow Reader. McKenzie is a shadow reader which means she can read the location of fae when they “frissure” or trace from one location to another. She helped overthrow the established fae ruling class with her skills. The displaced fae, or “remnants” as they are known in the book, haven’t taken the change well and McKenzie is still a target. McKenzie is half human but one with “Sight” and thus she can see fae hidden by illusion whereas other humans cannot.
The story opens with McKenzie searching for a friend, placing her guards in danger, and getting rescued by her boyfriend slash fae rebel leader, Aren. It’s the perfect capsule of the entire book. Our intrepid sword wielding heroine is constantly forgetting her weapons or does not know how to use them, charges into fraught situations, and has to be rescued. This pattern repeats itself throughout the story in pretty much the exact sequence. McKenzie’s friend has gotten kidnapped by the remnants.
Much of the book is centered around Aren and McKenzie’s relationship which makes the ending all the more frustrating. Aren professes his undying love for McKenzie throughout the book. McKenzie loves him back, but she feels some need to slow down the pace of their involvement because she isn’t sure how involved she wants to be in the fae realm. In order to create conflict, we are to believe that it is McKenzie’s truest desire to be human and live in the human world. She doesn’t want to continue as a shadow reader and hoped with the overthrow of the king that position would no longer be necessary.
The real problem is that McKenzie is a reactor in the worse way and the climax of the story results in betrayal and life decisions being made for her by others. McKenzie doesn’t really seem to fight for what she wants, merely accepting other’s decisions for her. She’s fairly inept as a warrior so I don’t know why is she is constantly being portrayed as a fighter. When other shadow readers are discovered, I’m wondering what McKenzie’s purpose even is.
The ending of the book revives the love triangle that was supposedly resolved in the first book. Maybe if the ending had been different, I would have been on board for a third book but the machinations at the end seemed like a blatant attempt to “hook” the reader on a gimmick rather than a compelling storyline. It is with this book, I say adieu. If I wanted to read PNR, I would have picked up a PNR book; not an urban fantasy that pretends to be a PNR. C-