Author: Jenna Black
Length: 295 pages
My star rating: ★
Note: I have included some spoilers in my Goodreads review. This review briefly discusses rape.
Shadowspell is the second book in Jenna Black’s Faeriewalker series. In it, sixteen-year-old Dana Hathaway, who learned in the first book that she is a “Faeriewalker”—a person who can pass between Faerie and the mortal world—continues her reign of idiocy. She endangers her friends and family, makes terrible decisions, and becomes even more of a walking contradiction. All this and, after a second book, she has still never even set foot in Faerie!
I liked Glimmerglass well enough. Dana was still a moron there, but the world Black created in Avalon had potential.
This appallingly bad novel has nothing going for it but a lovely cover.
Everything that was bad in the first book—Dana, namely, but also the unanswered questions about Avalon and the cartoonish villain—was multiplied ten times over here into something truly unbearable. I rarely skim books, but I skimmed through this one because I was too stubborn to give it up, but too disgusted to read it anything like closely.
The characters, Dana in the lead, were truly dreadful—flat, cliché, uninteresting, and unsympathetic.
Dana became even more of a Mary Sue than she was in the first book. She has two boys (who, because they’re Fae, are impossibly beautiful—of course) fawning over her for almost three hundred pages, and she has the almost all-powerful, deadly Erlking lusting after her
and her power, too. Ethan, her would-be “boyfriend,” is a total creep with serious boundary issues. There is nothing romantic about any of their interactions, which means that when Dana sacrifices something important for Ethan’s safety, it feels cheap and even wrong. She cannot control her own libido either—she finds literally every Fae man she meets sexy in the extreme, and “can’t help” herself when it comes to kissing, touching, and/or wanting them. I’m not slut-shaming her (she never does much and actually says she’s a “prude,” which is yet another contradiction). It just got really old seeing Dana go panting after every male character she saw. It was, to be frank, pathetic.
She also contradicts herself constantly—“I don’t/I’m not [X], but at that moment, I [Y]”—which felt like a cheap narrative trick on Black’s part. And it happens throughout the entire novel. On top of that, she’s selfish and self-absorbed in the extreme, and though she calls Kimber her “best friend” throughout the book, she only spends three or four scenes with Kimber when it’s convenient for her to do so. Her father is trying to keep her alive, yet she moans about being his “prisoner,” endangers herself and others for something as mundane as a birthday party, and derides her father constantly for being too cold, too distant, too strict, too bigoted, and overall, not the loving daddy she “had always wanted.” Eugh.
The only thing that made me sympathize with Dana at all was her (quite justified) attitude towards her alcoholic mother. It was the one and only sign that Dana might have had some depth.
Oh, and not only is she a Faeriewalker, she’s got incredible powers, and her good looks, inexplicable magical powers, and winning personality all earn her the respect of the Baddest of Them All.
She is the Queen of Mary Sues, people. It’s truly revolting to be in her head.
The other characters were little more than stereotypes (the “Goth/emo boy who really cares,” the “hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside overprotective dad,” the “jock/player with a heart of gold who loves the MC,” etc., etc.). The villain was just as bad in this book as in the last one—poorly-written, poorly-motivated, and just completely unbelievable.
Ethan, while being stereotypical most of the time, was—as I mentioned earlier—also a possessive creep with boundary issues. I hated Dana, but someone really needed to get a restraining order put on her asshole of a boyfriend-but-not-really.
The Erlking was basically David Bowie from Labyrinth, only Dana didn’t even try to pull the “you have no power over me” line on him, except when it was patently untrue and only served to make him laugh. He was an ass, but he at least held my interest some of the time.
Worse still, this book also had no plot. It was “Dana’s life is in danger, but she does stupid shit and compromises her safety and the safety of those around her,” and “Dana lusts after the boys in her life and is lusted after by them” over and over again—until Black finally dropped a shoe-horned “climax” that had nothing to do with the preceding narrative in the middle of everything, then used a total Deus Ex Machina to resolve it. It’s not just bad. It’s also lazy.
The Erlking is pretty much the sole addition to the universe; very little else is explained, cleared up, or further explored. The entire story is—again—stuck in Avalon, despite the enormous potential presented by Faerie’s mere existence. She might as well just have set it in a random English village for all the setting actually matters.
Now, Jenna Black may be a skilled writer, but Shadowspell certainly gives me no reason to think so—not only because of the reasons I’ve listed above, but because the prose is dry, disjointed, contradictory, and simple.
Yet even taking the dreadful writing into consideration, this book has no place on my library’s “Younger Teens” shelf.
Because it is in no way suitable for that age range (11-14). At all. It is blasé when discussing serious issues like rape (and, frankly, sex in general—at one point, Dana describes in detail how her nipples harden, among other physical reactions to one of the male characters). Our moronic narrator throws away lines like “he was going to rape me” and “there was nothing I could do” with neither fear nor any real tension. It also has graphic descriptions of some pretty gruesome acts of violence (stabbing, beheading, etc.). There is also some fairly strong language in places.
I wouldn’t feel all that comfortable letting my twelve-year-old read this is what I guess I’m saying.
To sum up: Shadowspell is everything that’s wrong with YA—flat, uninspired characters; virtually no plot to speak of; Mary Sue main characters whose lives revolve around boys (and who, despite their terrible and/or non-existent personalities and despite putting no effort into anything, including their appearance, somehow attract the sometimes-creepy, sometimes-pathetic attentions of said boys); and lousy writing.
Oh, and a love triangle (square?).
It’s not even really worth a star.
Needless to say, I will not be picking up the conclusion of this series.