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Shadows Cast by Stars Kindle Edition
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Just my opinion.
Cassandra isn't the easiest character to identify with or connect to, but her voice in the story is not typical or boring. She is brave, smart, and protective of her family. She does not back down and is amazingly resourceful, a character to look up to. The other characters are interesting to get to know, they all have a reason for being in the story, the author limited the extraneous characters. Cassandra is by far the most focused upon character. Her connection to the spirit world and her understanding of the world around her will likely be interesting to the reader.
The plot is not the most unusual, but the twist concerning aboriginal blood is an interesting take on a dystopian world. The author plays out the fear and tension created by a blood-hungry world very well, the reader will likely feel chills up his/her spine when reading certain excerpts. Overall, this book is recommended to young adult/teen readers.
*Complimentary copy received for review, this in no way affects my opinion*
I really enjoyed the character of Cass. She was unsure and strong, bold and meek, the perfect mixture of a young woman teetering on the edge of adulthood. She was also confused a great deal of the time about her insights into the spiritual world, and I found, as a spiritual student, that I could definitely relate to her hesitations and her lack of confidence. When she began her studies with the medicine woman Madda, I wanted to cheer--but of course, this help was challenged as well, and Cass had to find her own way, both in the physical world and in the realms of Spirit. At time, this was challenging and frustrating as a reader. There were places in the story where I was unsure of what was happening and had to re-read passages to try to figure out plot points. In a lesser book or one that was poorly written, I wouldn't have bothered to keep going. Catherine Knutsson's engaging and lyrical writing style, however, kept me intrigued, and I had to finish to know what happened to Cass.
I look forward to more work by this author. I truly admire her storytelling style.
Quick & Dirty: This novel crosses boundaries of science fiction and fantasy to weave together a world of racism, plagues and myths that test the heroine in ways she never imagined.
Opening Sentence: We live the Old Way.
The UA's greatest concern is the Plague. With everyone crammed into Population Corridors and quarantine sections numbered off, they harvest the Others for their blood. The Island is the last resort of Cassandra's father, who's clung hard to their house, his wife's grave, and the life they have in the Corridor. But as blood becomes more scarce the government begins hunting half-bloods. They have no choice but to run or die. The Others are more than the government gives them credit for. Paul, her younger brother by four minutes, prophesizes the future -- though they can rarely discern the answer in time to change it, while Cassandra can see Others' shades. They reveal to her the state of someone's soul. Her father's, for example, hasn't been seen since her mother died.
The Mercredi's lived the Old Way, without the luxuries of the Corridor. Living on the Island isn't such a big change for them. Protected by the boundary, the island is closer to the spirit world than the Corridors. Cass's power is stronger here, different. She can feel the Island itself. Old land has a lot of secrets; ones that Cass might be finding out sooner than she expected. The mythology of the aboriginals and Arthurian legends begin to mix their way into her life as she finds friends in the community. And we all know the original myths aren't quite as nice as the Disney versions.
Things on the Island aren't as easy as they'd hoped. For one thing, not everyone is happy to have Corridor people living among them. As the twins try to find their place in the community, they fall further apart. Cassandra towards the Island's healer, Paul to the Band. Both of these cliques have their own dangers. Cass from the spirit world she uses to help heal, Paul from the government that's hunting the Band. As the holes in the boundary begin to grow bigger, their jobs become harder. Not only because the boundary is tied directly to the spirit world, and thus their powers, but because the government is going after the Band more aggressively -- putting Paul and Cass directly in their path.
What blew me away with this novel was Knutsson's writing. Her prose is poetic, grounding the narrative voice in emotions and scenery without saying it outright. The interpretations of the mythology and legends made for a tense and original story line that I really, really hope turns into a series. As her characters grow, both as a community and as individuals, they make hard choices that will have readers questioning what they would do in such pressing situations. Nothing on the Island is quite what it seems -- spirits are real and people are false. Just when you think you've got the plot pegged or a character, Knutsson surprises you with a twist and changes your expectations. For someone who reads a lot of young adult and can usually guess the rest of a story, it's a refreshing change. This story crosses the boundaries of fantasy and science fiction, creating a dystopian with an alluring back story that keeps tension high and the pages turning.
FTC Advisory: Atheneum/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Shadows Cast By Stars. No goody bags, sponsorships, "material connections," or bribes were exchanged for my review. In addition, I don't receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.
Have you ever watched Princess Mononoke? There's that one scene where the forest god is walking through the lake, with the half-submerged trees, and there's light everywhere and yeah....
This book felt like that scene - dreamlike, dangerous, wild, spiritual.
It's definitely not going to be for every YA reader; the pace is languid, the prose elegant. But the imagery - I could see Cass's world as clearly as if I were there; smell the cold on the wind, see the shades rippling behind people. Also, while the setting is post-apocalyptic, because of the weaving of myths and legends through the narrative, I'd place this firmly in fantasy and recommend it to adult fantasy readers. I think this book has strong crossover potential.
I'm hoping there's a sequel written because while one part of Cass's journey is done (her acceptance of her powers and becoming the medicine woman) there is still so much more that has to happen, especially if Knutsson holds with her Arthurian motif.