A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Shadows Between Us is a fantasy romance the author describes as a "Slytherin romance" in her dedication. Those familiar with the Harry Potter house know Slytherins are cunning and ambitious. That's very true of Alessandra, the main character, who tells the reader on the very first page that she killed and buried her first lover and plans to marry and then kill the king to take his throne. Yes, ambition and power are shown as right here, but to such a degree that it's meant to be more humorous than troubling. What may be hard sell for some parents of teens is the sexual content. Alessandra admits to dozens of lovers and advocates for women to do what they want with their bodies without shame. (Of note: She also shows respect for her friends who wait for sex.) That said, there's only one actual sexual encounter in the book, and it's not described well, but there are other scenes of kissing and groping. Drinking is also on the heavy side for characters who are around 18 years old. One character says he's getting drunk at a boxing match "to have a better time." There are a few deaths where men are run through with swords and some injuries that are magically healed.
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What's the story?
In THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US, Alessandra, often overlooked second daughter of a lord, is determined to win the heart of the king so she can kill him and steal his kingdom. Her plans are off to a good start when she catches the king's attention at a palace ball and is asked to stay at court. Rumors fly about her the second she settles into her rooms, about her trendsetting dresses and her outspokenness. It's not long before the king asks to court her, but only as a ruse to appease his council. Since the assassination of his parents, he spends most of his time in shadow form, a kind of protection from attempts on his life. The shadows around him won't allow him to be close to anyone physically or emotionally -- and that's just one reason Alessandra's murder plot will be tough to carry out. The other is that she's starting to have feelings for the king.
Is it any good?
Perfectly described as a "Slytherin romance" in the dedication, this palace-set fantasy is a playful love letter to ambitious and sexually empowered women who rarely get to be protagonists. Oh, and the protagonist in question is also an unrepentant murderer -- that, too. For the right mature reader, this is pure fun. The Shadows Between Us may seem to be promoting all the wrong values, but you'll find virtuous maidens and just rulers in plenty of other fantasy tomes. Just not this one. Even funnier perhaps is that there's a Robin Hood-type character on the loose and a righteous rebellion of peasants who are all squashed like insects.
The romance is as smoldering as you'd expect, except for the no-touching-the-king rule. The mythology behind this monarch's family curse isn't that well developed, but it draws out the romantic suspense splendidly. The last half of The Shadows Between Us flies by as readers wonder if this devious power couple will ever really find happiness together or if one of Alessandra's blood-soaked secrets will be her downfall. But again, this book delights in not following the rules, so readers are sure to be surprised by a few of the twists at the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sexually empowered female characters in The Shadows Between Us and in other media. How often do they get to be the protagonists? What is their usual role in a story or on screen? Why do you think this is?
So many stories about kingdoms also focus on just rulers and the evils of being hungry for power. How does this story depart from that? Is it refreshing? Humorous? Alarming? All three?
Would you read more about characters like Alessandra and King Kallias? Do you prefer to read about characters you'd like to emulate?
- Author: Tricia Levenseller
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date: February 25, 2020
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 19, 2020
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