Top critical review
33 people found this helpful
on 14 October 2008
I won't rehash the plot, as the reviwers who have gone before me have already done that. To summerise briefly, CAST IN SHADOW is the first book in a series about a woman who lives in a world where 4 different races live side by side. There are the 'normal' humans, the 'dragons' (not real dragons, more like humans with extra powers), lion-like people and flying people. She has a mysterious past that always comes back to haunt her. Basically, it's a fantasy story with intrigue and action, and slight hints at romance.
What really annoys me about this book is it's wasted potential: the storyline is pretty original and does get you flipping the pages to find out what happens next. Also, the heroine is the usual plucky type who can stand on her own two feet and has an answer for everything, and yet underneath that confident exterior are a few secrets...there's magic and mystery, fighting and strange happenings and new and unusual creatures...to put it simply, it's everything I look for in a fantasy novel!
So all in all the basics are there for a good read, and I think this is what all the other reviewers are responding to when they give it so many stars. And I'm going to admit, although I bought the first two books in the series because of the glowing reviews on Amazon, after I had finished CAST IN SHADOW I wasn't particularly bothered about CAST IN COURTLIGHT (number 2). However, I had paid for it and I soon ran out of things to read, so I picked it up and enjoyed it a lot more. I think it's because I had more knowledge of the characters and the world they live in.
Because ultimately, that is what's wrong with this book: it opens, and straight away doesn't give the reader enough knowledge of the world of the characters. In fact, the characters, including the main protagonist, came across as pretty 2 dimensional and shallow. I found that I just didn't care for them, what happened to them, what physical and mental anguish they went through etc etc. Don't get me wrong, every author has their own technique in fantasy novels for introducing the reader to the new world they have created. There's the 'explainers', who explain every thing and everyone, but have the risk of spoiling the pace and action of the novel and simply boring the pants off the reader with too much detail...
Or there's the 'droppers', who drop the reader right in the middle of some action, introduce things slowly and only when it is relevant, and keep on with the high pace throughout. Generally, I prefer this style, and I get the feeling this is what Michelle was trying to do...however in my opinion she fails. I was left bewildered for quite a lot of the novel, unsure if I hadn't understood a section because I wasn't meant too, or perhaps because I had missed some vital clue the author had dropped in (this happened a lot, and led to many re-readings of certain sections as I struggled to make sense of what is happening), or if it was simply down to the poor writing in general: I would recommend to this author that she gets a new editor or something, because the bad sentence structure, poor use of words and assumption that the reader knows the characters as well as the author does spoiled the book. (and we don't by the way. You created them, so you know them inside out, but brooding and mysterious only goes so far before it becomes flat and boring).
Another issue I had with the book was that the Heroine, Kaylin, came across as a young girl...maybe she's meant to be emotionally immature, but if asked her age I would say 16-17. I don't believe her age is ever actually mentioned in the two books I have read of the series, although I think I worked it out that she is meant to be in her early 20s. I'm sorry, but I don't think the author remembers what it's like to be that age!
However, after all is said and done, I still found myself reading both novel that I bought, and enjoying them too, and if someone offered me the next in the series for a super discounted price, I don't think I would say no...