(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Welcome to the Half-Light City.
Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, ruled by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely…
I was born of a Fae mother, but I had no place amongst her kind. They called me “soulless.” An abomination. Perhaps they’re right…I’m a wraith, a shadow who slips between worlds. I was given into the service of a Blood Lord who raised me to be his most feared assassin. Still, I’m nothing more than a slave to my master, and to the need that only he can fulfill…
Then he orders me to kill Simon DuCaine, a powerful sunmage. In the blaze of his magic, my own disappears. Instead of seeking revenge, Simon shows me mercy. He wants to free me. But that’s one thing my master and his kind will never allow.
And even if I thought I could trust Simon, stepping from the shadow into the light isn’t as simple as it sounds…
I was a little apprehensive in the beginning of Shadow Kin simply because I’m very familiar with the whole ‘assassin falls in love with his/her mark’ trope. However, I loved M.J. Scott’s take on this old trope because of course nothing is simple in the Half-Light City.
One of the things I really liked about Shadow Kin is the world-building. There are four factions: vampires, werewolves, humans and the Fae. There is a sort of tense peace between the four races but there’s a lot of compromise. The most horrific compromise is the fact that any human who goes to the Night World chasing vampires is lost to humanity and their remaining family have little recourse if their loved one goes missing or becomes blood-locked. (Blood-locking is when a human drinks vampire blood and becomes addicted to it, eventually going mad.) And of course since the Fae are vulnerable to iron, they also limit the total supply of iron for the entire city. Werewolves don’t seem to do much except fight with the vampires and fight each other for dominance. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this but that’s the beauty of this book: the world-building is excellent and M.J. Scott is a good enough writer that she can play with the political tensions while still focusing on the interpersonal conflicts.
Of course my favourite part of the book has to be the characters. Lily is a woman that doesn’t belong anywhere: the Fae don’t want her because she’s a wraith and she’ll never truly belong with the vampires even though she does Lucius’ dirty work. She’s been manipulated and used for her whole life so when she tries to kill Simon, fails and then he offers to hep her escape Lucius she obviously doesn’t believe him. I can’t really blame her because I certainly wouldn’t in her situation. But Simon is one of those few people that is entirely sincere in his desire to help people; it’s almost a fault with him. He and Lily make an odd couple but their romance is very sweet. It’s not easy and even the caring Simon can act like a total jerk (particularly in the last quarter of the book) but that just makes it more realistic.
The plot is fast-paced if a little predictable. Well, mostly predictable—there was a major surprise regarding Lily’s powers at the end of the novel. Still, the creative world-building, well-developed characters and sweet romance more than make up for a little predictability. In addition to that, the ending resolves the main plot while leaving so much more for Scott to explore in the rest of the series. Shadow Kin is a good start to the Half-Light City series and I can’t wait to read more.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of NetGalley.)
Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…
The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.
Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.
Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
It was the cover that attracted my attention and the blurb that piqued my interest but in the end it was M. J. Scott’s amazing writing that made me fall in love with the book.
In The Shattered Court, Scott has created a beautiful fantasy world full of mystery and magic, intrigue and innocence, loyalty and betrayal. It’s definitely a world of duality where nothing is as it seems, particularly toward the end of the novel. The way Scott set up the whole magic system in Anglion is just brilliant. There are four known types of magic, you see, but women (especially royal women) are only allowed to practice earth magic, which seems to be one of the weaker magics in general. Air magic and especially water magic are forbidden and knowledge of them is extremely limited. In the neighbouring kingdom of Illvya things are quite different but the royal family restricts knowledge of the other kingdom almost as much as they restrict the trade with it.
Enter into this world our protagonist Lady Sophia, who prefers the name Sophie. She’s about to turn 21, the age when all witches’ powers will manifest or not when there is an attack on the royal castle in Anglion. Since she was in the lower town gathering magical supplies with the Crown Princess’ own bodyguard, Cameron Mackenzie, she is whisked away to the country where it’s safer. So not only does she not have the proper Ais-Seann ceremony on her 21st birthday, she does something rather unconventional that really is problematic when you consider the fact that she’s supposed to be properly bound in a marriage ceremony instead of on a ley line with a mere third son (the aforementioned Cameron). When she gets back to court and discovers who lived and who died in the vicious attack that destroyed much of the palace, her life is forever changed. Suddenly, Sophie isn’t sure who to trust, even though she was utterly devoted to Eloisa, the Crown Princess. Now that she’s manifested and moved up in the line of succession due to a number of deaths it seems that everyone at court wants a piece of her. And trust me when I say that things quickly get complicated.
Although Sophie is sort of the main focus of the story we also get to see things from Cameron’s point of view. Of all the characters I think it’s Cameron that undergoes the biggest change throughout the story. He goes from being Eloisa’s lover to being a sort of outcast in court for his actions. He also loses his overbearing father who constantly pushed him to take advantage of his role as Eloisa’s lover to advance in court. But when Sophie and he are accidentally and inextricably bound, things get a heck of a lot more complicated than he would have liked. Cameron moves up in the world but learns that he and the woman he loves are in more danger than he ever dreamed possible. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but let’s just say his new love leads him to change his loyalties pretty quickly and make some very hard decisions, particularly toward the end of the book.
The plot is quite fast-paced. We’re introduced to Anglion and the two main characters and then the attack on the castle happens just as we’re getting our bearings. While there are some slower parts, Scott never really lets up with the tension because there’s always a sort of unseen threat lurking in the background. Who was behind the attacks? And who is unhappy enough with Sophie’s unconventional bonding that they would actually threaten her life? As Sophie and Cameron struggle to unravel the mystery of who essentially bombed the castle, they’re faced with a whole host of other dilemmas as they start to make certain powerful people uncomfortable with all of their digging. Again, I don’t want to give away some of the plot twists because they’re awesome but let’s just say that more than one person would happily silence Sophie or Cameron (or both) in a heartbeat.
So here we have a vivid, rich fantasy world populated by complex and interesting characters. If The Shattered Court just had that going for it I would have fallen in love with it but with the plot twists and the constant tension throughout the narrative there was no doubt that I would love this book. The cliffhanger ending was good because it resolved some of the initial questions in the story but left a lot of new questions to be answered in the second book. And believe me when I say that I’m very eagerly awaiting the next book even though this first book won’t actually be published until April 28th of this year. Yes, it was just that good.
I give this book 5/5 stars.