SHADOW WEAVER, by MarcyKate Connolly, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Jan.2, 2018, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-14)
If you’re a fan of darker middle-grade fantasy, then MarcyKate Connolly’s Shadow Weaver may be up your alley. It’s the first book in a duology that’s filled with mystery, magic and adventure.
Emmeline lives in a world where magic used to be valued, but Emmeline’s ability to control shadows is looked upon as anything but a gift.
Emmeline is a solitary creature. Even her own parents ignore her. But Emmeline isn’t alone. For as long as she can remember, Emmeline has had Dar, her own shadow, by her side. Dar isn’t just a shadow. She’s Emmeline’s best friend, and she can talk.
When a noble family arrives as Emmeline’s home and offers to take the girl away and cure her of her magic, Emmeline is terrified. In attempt to save her shadows, Emmeline makes a deal with Dar, agreeing to help make her shadow flesh if Dar will change the noble’s mind. Something goes wrong, though, and the noble falls into a coma.
Only a shadow could have made its way into the noble’s room, and Emmeline is blamed. Rather than face the consequences, Emmeline and dar run away.
Emmeline quickly discovers that a life on the run isn’t as interesting as it sounds. The noble’s guards are on her trail, and a girl who was raised on an estate isn’t well suited for a life in the wild.
Luckily for Emmeline, she’s not the only one with gifts, and they’re just as interested in safeguarding Emmeline’s gifts as she is. As her friendship with these strangers grows, Emmeline realizes Dar might not be the friend she always thought her to be.
The Shadow Weaver is fairly dark with bits of brightness woven throughout. Connolly’s writing takes some getting used to, and it won’t be a fit for everyone. However, her world-building is strong, and her descriptions of how Emmeline manipulates shadows are beautiful.
Emmeline is the true star of Shadow Weaver. She reminds me a lot of Lyra from Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass. She’s a wild thing that most people ignore and later want to use for their own devices. Like Lyra, I had a hard time really liking her character until later in the novel. In the beginning, she feels a bit one-dimensional. It takes a while to get to know Emmeline, which may make Shadow Weaver a harder read for a less mature audience, but if you stick with her, you’re rewarded. I’m looking forward to see where Connolly takes readers with the second book in this duology.
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