Sisters of Shadow by Katherine Livesey
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All she knew was vengeance…
Alice has lived in the forest on the fringes of Alder Vale ever since her parents abandoned her. Alone, exiled, feared by all. All except Lily.
But something is stirring beyond the mountains, whispers of spectres stalking the moors, women of unfathomable power luring children into a cult that has haunted local lore for a generation.
Then, in the dead of night, Alice receives a letter promising answers to the questions that have always tormented her. And so she meets Grace. The red-cloaked cultist pledged to protect her, a scarred warrior born of storm and sea, the girl who will steal her heart.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2021
It’s not all about Alice Blackwell.
Sure, she’s facing the truth of her heritage and the cost of magic, and sure, she’s been kidnapped. But the real star of the show is Lily Knight, apothecary in training and Alice’s best friend. She’s dreamed all her life of a comfortable existence in Alder Vale; no magic, no adventures, no fear for miles. When Alice disappears, though, it’s Lily who’s brave enough to follow her trail and search for the truth.
The journey will take her far from home, and it will teach her what fear truly looks like. But it will also show her just what she’s fighting for, and what might lie ahead if only she dares to dream outside the meadows of Alder Vale.
Sisters of Shadow is a prolonged fairy tale.
It has the right tone for it, a sort of whimsical voice. It also has all the classic fairy tale pitfalls as well. Monologuing villains? Predictable secrets of parentage? Supposedly responsible adults refusing to tell children information that could very well save their lives or at least give them an edge in the struggles to come? Oh yes, it has all of these!
As much as I wanted to appreciate those elements of whimsy, they were completely overshadowed by the plainness of the writing. Sisters of Shadow brings very little to the table that hasn’t been done before, and it doesn’t do it in any particularly spectacular way. Everything is simplistic and predictable to a frustrating degree.
Also consider that the main characters are supposed to be 17 or 18, and that adds another layer of disappointment. If this were a younger YA, with early teen protagonists, or even a middle grade, some of the tone might fit better. But I sometimes felt like these characters were a bunch of airheads with an occasional smart thought in their heads, and not nearly enough facets to be, well, proper characters.
“Sometimes, a little wildness is key.”
Possibly scalding takes aside, though, I did have some appreciation for Sisters of Shadow. For one, the casual sapphic representation brought me great joy. In her author’s note, Katherine Livesey mentions a little of her own experience in realizing her bisexuality, and how much she wishes she had a book like this when she was younger and still figuring things out. I think that’s such a wonderful wish, too, because Alice and her love interest are in this stage of learning what their love looks like, what it means. Alice is especially hesitant, only just realizing that falling in love with another girl is truly an option, and her anxiety over it is all too real.
What can I say? I have a soft spot for late bloomer sapphics finally understanding themselves a little better.
I also liked a couple of the concepts regarding the witches in this book. There are witches, and then there are Protectors, who have an elemental affinity that allows them to match well with witches of that same affinity. In rare, exceptional cases, a witch and Protector may bond, and their magic becomes exclusive to one another. And in even rarer cases, two witches might bond, leading to untold power. It’s a system that intrigues me, and one I don’t think I got nearly enough of. Alice may only be at the start of harnessing her magic, but I think that would have been a perfect point to teach her (and by extension, readers) more about what she’s getting into.
This one might be good for slightly younger YA readers, or perhaps someone looking for a more simplistic read.
I highly doubt it’s going to satisfy anyone looking for an immersive, robust fantasy, especially when it comes to character development. Still, I think it might be a good book for folks who want a break from hefty, complex fantasy, or for younger, newer YA readers who are just starting to get into the age range/genre.
For those of you who are interested in Sisters of Shadow, you don’t have long to wait! It officially releases tomorrow, September 30th. And, if you enjoy it more than I did, there’s also going to be a sequel, as Alice and Lily’s journeys are far from over.
CW: loss of a loved one, violence, gore, animal death, child abuse, child death, torture