1) Shadows

By: Robin McKinley

Date Finished: 01.13.14

by Robin McKinley

It was kind of funny in a not-ha-ha way that lock-picking gave me a worse headache than interdimensional travel.

Maggie lives in Newworld, where science dominates and magic is dangerous and has been (presumably) abolished.  Maggie’s new stepfather, Val, is from Oldworld and somehow entered Newworld with his independently moving shadows.  Maggie despises him for his magical presence.  Trouble is, she seems to be the only one who can consistently see the extra shadows.  But when the town is threatened by a natural disaster, Maggie learns that with the help of the shadows she is capable of magic that science could never comprehend.

I ended last year with a Robin McKinley, so why not start the new year with her as well?  Shadows is her newest book, published last fall, and is hugely different stylistically than the rest of her canon.  It’s first person rather than third person, a modern setting, and much more young adult than usual.  She’s taken detours before from the re-imagined fairy-tales/original-but-still-in-a-medieval-setting before, so it’s not a total shock, but it’s not exactly representative of her work.

The characters are great – a wide array of upbringings, of quirks, and of skills.  They fit together like puzzle pieces, only you don’t get the connectors until you’ve already roughed out the picture.  The plot is interesting, unique, and full of weirdness that somehow feels so natural.  I enjoyed the setting, the relationships, the struggles, the triumphs, and one particular gem of scene.  However, I did not enjoy the voice.

Maggie is wonderful and obviously the lead character, but her narration is choppy.  I found the first person distracting all the way to end and never could find a cadence to her storytelling.  McKinley also threw in a whole mess of made up slang that didn’t quite land and turned into stumbling blocks instead.  I’m accustomed to elegance in McKinley’s stories and soak up the decadence of her narration, so the staccato of this voice was a bit jarring.  Buried beneath that uneven surface is a beautiful story filled with the kind of magic only Robin McKinley can concoct.

At the end of the day: For me.

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