A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While the book is fantasy and set in a fictional world, young readers will pick up quite a bit of Scots dialect and other bits of Celtic lore along the way. They'll also encounter thoughtfully presented ethical issues.
There are many positive messages in Shadowfell, including the fact that even the people from whom you expect the worst can surprise you in a good way. Loyalty, steadfastness, generosity, and forgiveness are all important elements in Neryn's learning process.
Positive Role Models
Neryn doesn't always make perfect choices, though she learns from her mistakes and generally does the right thing when it counts. The mysterious, deeply conflicted Flint navigates between the worlds of mortal enemies while trying to remain true to his own moral compass. Both the fairy world and the human world offer many characters who perform with heroic self-sacrifice to protect Neryn and help her reach her goal.
Violence & Scariness
There's a constant backdrop of violence as Neryn flees the king's forces, who've already killed most of her family. Besides inflicting violent death on the populace, including by setting fire to buildings with the people inside, the king's Enforcers also have skills to destroy the minds of those who oppose them. Conflict between Enforcers and resistance forces results in much death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Neryn refers to the low-life men in the gambling den undressing her with their eyes as her father stakes her as his wager; she also mentions never having had sex as she ponders what the man who's just won her will do to her. But her relationship with Flint remains notably chaste, with one kiss before the book ends.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Potions, healing and otherwise, turn up frequently. Too much drink leads to trouble, as when Neryn's crazed father can't stop gambling. One of the Good Folk who's been supplying Neryn with a tonic so she's strong enough to travel refuses to give her any more because of the danger of addiction.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Shadowfell is the first book in a trilogy by bestselling historical-fantasy author Juliet Marillier. In a generally Celtic medieval kingdom called Alban, 15-year-old Neryn has been in mortal danger her whole life because of her "canny" abilities, which let her see and converse with fairies. And when her addled father gambles her away in a game of chance, she fears the man whose hands she's fallen into. As her adventures unfold and she starts to realize her magical powers, she encounters -- and sometimes participates in -- violent combat, which becomes the subject of much moral reflection. The king's Enforcers set fire to buildings with people inside and have the power to destroy the minds of those who oppose them. Conflict between Enforcers and resistance forces results in much death. But Neryn learns compelling lessons about friendship, forgiveness, and loyalty, and has just one kiss by book's end.
Is It Any Good?
Juliet Marillier is an accomplished writer of fantasy page-turners with a huge worldwide following, and it shows in the skilled storytelling and world-building in SHADOWFELL. Neryn's introspection and cosmic journeys toward her destiny may not be to the taste of more action-oriented readers. But the story offers interesting, complex characters confronting challenges from the mundane to the horrific and sets the stage for further developments in the trilogy's next installment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.