3 out of 4 stars
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I rate the book Shadow’s Voice by Natalie Johanson as 3 out of 4 stars. If I were able to give a more specific score I would give this 3.8 out of 4. The writing is tight with layered description, believable setting, maturing characters, and storyline that makes it hard to set the book down. However, there are a few editing errors that detract from a perfect score. I do strongly recommend this book.
The story begins with a setting that could be almost anywhere, across the centuries. Quickly the reader collects tidbits and details that bring the character Rose and her place to life. Rose is intelligent but often makes decisions based upon emotion and then second-guesses her choices. Her self-confidence and self-doubt resonates with the reader. As she travels, she is a keen observer and one is able to collect these puzzle pieces of knowledge and quickly build an understanding of this strange land with currents of magic. As Rose puzzles out the politics and seeks to avoid her past (while relying on skills that could only be learned through her unique history), we relate to her stubborn unwillingness to be anyone’s pawn while desperately wanting a place to fit in, a place to relax. One cannot help but be amused by how, in her hopes to avoid being controlled, she is easily manipulated by the kind king and gruff but caring captain, albeit with their good intentions. Two stories are intertwined in this adventure tale, both to avoid an assasination and to avoid evil controlling magic, with hints of budding romance, and stoic, humorous characters to push the tales along.
This fantasy fiction relies upon the reader willing to accept that a young woman may have an understanding of many trades and skills from: spinning wool, traveling alone, hand-to-hand combat, short blade skill, assasination, trading/bartering, tracking, and her exploration of magic. The author also includes the self-doubt and small failures of Rose, keeping the character believable and the reader invested into Rose’s growth. There are many side stories to mimic the intertwining of real life and thus lead credibility to that which we know is not possible, like shadows speaking to us.
I enjoyed how the author created vivid sub characters that only appeared a few times, such as Luci or Archie. These characters were developed enough to have a strong presence, but not important enough to fill Rose’s time. Ms. Johanson has an excellent feel of how to weave in these smaller characters to mimic real life interactions amongst peers who are not close friends. She also offers depth to characters by referencing past history and interactions without long drawn out descriptions.
I would recommend this book for older students or young adults. There is description of violence, both face-to-face and surprise-from-behind attacks. There is brief but graphic descriptions of the assaults and the after effects. There is no direct sexuality in the book though there are references to romantic relationships. There is a small amount of swearing. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading a sequel.
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