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Circle of Shadows

Review

Circle of Shadows

Daemon and Sora know all about possibility --- marked in childhood as future taigas, protective warriors of the kingdom who have the ability to summon magic, they train for the day when they will assume their fated positions somewhere in Kichona. As each other’s gemina, or partners tied by an emotional, sacred bond, they learn together at the Citadel, Kichona’s facility for all taiga apprentices, as Spirit and Wolf. For Sora, one of the strongest wielders of magic, and Daemon, one of the Citadel’s best fighters, the possibilities seem especially limitless. However, Sora concerns herself more with mischief and trickery, aided by a loyal Daemon and their closest friends, Fairy and Broomstick. Their world of loyalty and adventure seems, in many ways, unmarked by the scars of betrayal and warfare of a still-healing Kichona, recovering from the brutal Blood Rift that pitted Empress Aki against her brother, Prince Gin. In contrast to his benevolent sister, Prince Gin aimed to achieve prosperity for Kichona by fulfilling an ancient myth --- shedding blood in exchange for the Evermore, a lasting peace and prosperity obtained only through sacrifice. Even as Kichona seems to have achieved peace, possibility always offers new challenges, threats, and dangers, even as it offers opportunities.

"One of the most interesting elements of Skye’s story is the rich mythology....With a unique and definitive world and stand-out minor characters aimed at younger teens, the story sets itself up for the possibility of success in the future."

After the success of her duology, The Crown’s Game, Skye returns with a fantasy that offers promise, but in some ways struggles to deliver development that makes a story resonate with readers. In CIRCLE OF SHADOWS, it is often the minor characters that prove most compelling and realistic. In particular, Empress Aki’s development as a leader gives the story a strong authority figure, yet she does not lack her own doubts, both in herself and in the future. Additionally, Fairy’s growth over the course of the story reveals a confident dedication in addition to her mischievousness and flirtation, her personality comprised of the layers necessary to make her storyline meaningful to the reader.

By contrast, Sora and Daemon read more as the types of their characters --- heroine and hero --- than individuals with unique personalities. Their unwavering determination and perseverance come across more formulaic than inspiring, while their narration lacks a needed emotional depth. Skye begins to develop their central storylines --- Sora’s bond with her family, and Daemon’s search for identity --- but at times these plotlines seem to move in circles, placing the characters in the same position mentally as they were in a previous chapter. Not only does this obstruct the development of the characters, but it also wastes opportunities to reveal additional facets of their personalities and makes certain decisions from the characters seem abrupt and forced.

However, one of the most interesting elements of Skye’s story is the rich mythology of the kingdom, one that bleeds over into the reality of the story. A few gods and goddesses make their appearances in the novel, offering the promise of more to come, which have the potential to set Skye’s newest story apart from other fantasy novels, moving the plot in an exciting and unfamiliar direction that explores the role of higher powers --- and their sympathy, apathy and greed --- on heroes and heroines. Skye also captures a distinctive sense of identity for the Taigas, one rooted in pride and tradition, and she uses Empress Aki’s storyline to challenge it with a strong theme regarding the power of ingenuity, one that ties together the story and provides an interesting dynamic.

Overall, Skye offers possibility to her characters in CIRCLE OF SHADOWS: the chance to become something greater, in the same way that she does for her own story. Even though she struggles in her development of her lead characters, with a unique and definitive world and stand-out minor characters aimed at younger teens, the story sets itself up for the possibility of success in the future.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on January 29, 2019

Circle of Shadows
by Evelyn Skye

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2019
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 006264372X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062643728