Shadow by Kara Swanson | Book Review

Welcome back, dear readers!

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I took a few months off from blogging because life got crazy busy. There were so many blessings (like seeing my writing group in person at Realm Makers!), but keeping up with this blog just became too much.  Moving forward, I’m hoping to post biweekly on this blog. Today, however, I have a new book review that I’m very excited to share with you. 

Shadow by Kara Swanson was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, and my goodness it did not disappoint. I’ve read it twice so far, since I had the privilege of being a beta reader for Kara and then I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

The sequel to Dust and conclusion to the Heirs of Neverland duology, Shadow picks up right where the first book left off. Claire is coming to Neverland, feeling betrayed by her discovery of Peter’s lies and desperate to find her missing brother. Peter is close on her heels, wanting to find her and warn her of the truth about Neverland–the island is being torn apart from the inside. As they race to save Neverland, Peter and Claire face the reality that they might have to sacrifice the one thing they have left: each other. 

What I Liked

Let’s start with the characters, because they were the beating heart of this story. Claire has come so far from the timid girl we met in Dust. She’s resilient and far more confident in her own magic. Claire goes through so much emotionally in this book, and most of what she relied upon in the last book has been stripped away. She faces countless struggles and heartbreaks, learning through it all that other people can not be her ultimate source of confidence. I think Swanson handled that balance well, showing that we do need people to support us but that troubles arise if we root our identity in others, since people are, well, flawed

On the topic of flawed, let’s move to Peter. In Dust, Peter was a massively flawed character that still managed to be enormously entertaining and lovable. In Shadow, Peter has a HUGE arc, journeying through the struggle that accompanies growth while still being one of the most entertaining characters I have had the pleasure of reading. He truly came into his own as he learned the importance of gravity and taking ownership of his mistakes, but it made me happy that he also didn’t lose his boyish enthusiasm as some of his sharper edges were smoothed by suffering. His voice is so distinct, and I was always excited when it was one of his chapters. 

I’d also like to throw in that the side characters were incredibly compelling. Tiger Lily was an absolute boss (as always),  Tootles was adorable and the perfect contrast to Peter, and even Hook was given significant depth. Kara’s memorable characters never disappoint. 

I am VERY picky when it comes to final books–they can either make or break a series for me, and I usually have high expectations. Shadow ticked all the boxes. As far as the plot goes, it was a relentless ride of twists and turns. So many events are crammed into its pages, which I personally adore as a structure for a final book in a series. I want that breakneck pace and hard-hitting moments. This book goes to places I didn’t expect, pushing the characters far and my emotions further. I don’t want to say too much about the ending other than it was perfect. I can’t imagine a more fitting conclusion to this journey. 

What I Didn’t Like

To be fair, there was one aspect that disappointed me slightly. At the end of Dust, Claire discovers Peter’s web of deceptions and (understandably) feels betrayed. In Shadow, however, it felt glossed over. Perhaps it’s just my desire for drama, but they never really discussed it or worked it out, and I’d kind of been hoping for at least an argument. Instead, it was simply forgiven and forgotten. 

It was quite noble of Claire to be willing to move past it, but I felt like this large issue wasn’t addressed between the characters, and if I had been in their shoes, I would have at least wanted an explanation and apology. Because of how large the deception was, I would have liked it to cause more character tension.

The Heart of the Story

At the beginning of the book resides a quote from G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.” 

That idea summarizes what I think Shadow’s deepest message is–there is darkness; there is pain; but there is also light that overcomes it. We get to choose how we respond to suffering, whether we let it break us or whether we rise up stronger. And no matter how dark it looks, there. is. hope. 

Throughout this story is woven a fierce declaration of hope and light in the overwhelming face of shadows. It’s like Kara is taking you by the hand, looking you straight in the eyes, and telling you not to despair. All we need to do is glance at our world to know this is a truth we desperately need to be reminded of.

I am so grateful for the heart and soul of this book. 

In Conclusion

Is Shadow worth reading? Yes, I very much believe it is. Though, if you couldn’t already tell that from the way I’ve been gushing about it, I’m not sure you actually read this review. Shadow is a quick read full of vivid characters, lush settings, and at its core is a hope burning brighter than any star.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

What did you think of Shadow? I’d love to continue the discussion with you in the comments!

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