The first thing you should know about “Between the Shade and the Shadow” is that it is atmospheric AF. Really, the writing is prose filled, the land is cast in constant darkness where the light can kill our sprites, and there is a dark secret on what turns a shade into a sprite, and where the shade’s loyal animal companion—their shadow—goes when that transformation takes place. Few sprites have the mental capacity to bond themselves to powerful animals, most seem to have foxes, squirrels, or other small woodland creatures. Strong shades can bond to proud eagle owls, but only the strongest can bond to a wolf as our main character, Ahraia, has done. This marks her as someone with incredibly strong mental capacity for casting enchantments, who can create darkness—basically bending trees and making the forest into impenetrable fortresses of night—and eventually lead her people. But there is a price for that leadership that Ahraia is woefully ignorant of, and those who are power hungry around her are all too eager and willing to use Ahraia and the shadow, the wolf Losna, to achieve their own goals, even if that means they have to sacrifice Ahraia herself. This book is as thematically dark as it is literally dark at times, and it’s one of the more epic, high fantasies I’ve read in a hot minute.
This series is going to destroy me in the best way possible. I read the first book in the trilogy years ago, and then again recently in preparation for finishing the series this year. “Angelfall” remains one of my favorite reads, and now “World After” is joining it! I was able to buddy read this and it was so much fun to talk about all the little things we noticed and the parts we loved, so I promise you, I got that all out of my system early to avoid spoilers. But seriously, read “Angelfall” first before even LOOKING at this review as “World After” starts almost exactly where the first book left off. But, in this installment, we get a lot more of Penryn on her own, her struggles with her survivors guilt and being the big sister Paige needs. She struggles trying to see PEOPLE instead of monsters, plus we finally get the full picture of what the angels are doing on Earth, and just how little humans actually matter to them.
This is one of those series that is borderline a guilty pleasure for me at the moment. I can tell that this is one of those series that was 1. Maybe hurt by the hype train and my inability to read books in a timely fashion so things end up getting kind of spoiled, and 2. That it’s also one of those series that only really gets good come the third or fourth book. In “Crown of Midnight” Celaena is firmly the King’s Champion, though she’s fairly good at not having to assassinate anyone for an assassin. The King gives her a list of people she needs to eliminate, and she goes off and pretends like she does, but things get complicated when the King wants her to kill a blast from her past because he suspects that he’s leading a rebellion. This person is a courtesan of sorts, and Celaena doesn’t believe her old friend would have the guts to do something like the King claims given the life of luxury he leads. So, on her quest to figure out who is really involved in this rebellion, Celaena uncovers more secrets in the impossibly large underground passages of the Glass Castle—like seriously, there’s at least 3 castles within this one castle that are just completely abandoned. Ultimately, this is very much a book about moving pieces and characters into the right places so the main plot of the series can finally begin.
“Kingdom Come” is a bit like Supernatural, or, rather Shadow Hunter Academy with God and Christ in the forefront. If there are demons, they are Satan’s creatures plain and simple. Unlike some of the other paranormal books out there that use demons as their villains without any religious aspect to them, that’s not the case in this novel. Our main character is part of an elite demon hunting academy based in Vatican City, developed by the newest Pope Quintus. Their goal is simple and straight forward: kill all demons, and go where the Church needs them to battle the forces of evil. Everything from complex exorcisms, to full out war for the Vatican, the DH is there, each team with their own unique characters and powers, reminiscent of a video game class system. Jason struggles to find his place on the team, often insubordinate when his instincts tell him to act, often with dire consequences. He’s a character on a journey all in the service of God. So, obviously, if you don’t want or like Christian Speculative Fiction mixed in with your fantasy, this won’t be the book for you, because Coogle never shies away from the fact that his book is all about the glory of God.
I tend to waffle on zombie books. I can get burned out on them real fast because they are just so popular; they seem to be the go-to epidemic for apocalyptic books, that or hunger game levels of dystopian. But “The Afters” was an awesome read, and all because of the narrative voice of Charlie, our main character. O’Connell had me laughing within the first chapter of introducing us to Charlie, and in a genre where most everything has been done 80 different ways, but often the same way (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead), it was so refreshing to have such a strong character. Because that’s what you need at this stage when almost everything else has been done before: a unique, strong voiced character that you are invested in, but is also incredibly sarcastic and funny in an otherwise super dire situation. Charlie lives in a very loose community of survivors, he’s an awesome scavenger and hunter of the undead, but he also is a good guy, a softie, a romantic, and his attachment to Bertha, Trey, and Ellie was both sweet and entertaining to follow.
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