A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows what happens when a kingdom is more focused on holding onto power than leading the people.
Might, power, privilege are shown as right here, but shamelessly enough that readers will know not to take the message too seriously. Women should not have more shame than men about desiring and seeking sexual relationships if they want them. Women themselves, not society, should dictate what's best for them: many partners, no sex before love, or no sex before marriage. And being yourself and being honest with others about who you are is the best way to find your match.
Positive Role Models
Alessandra apologizes for nothing and wants everything, especially power. She killed her first lover, who rejected her, and swore off love after that. She grows as a character when she accepts love in her life again. She advises her female friends to follow their own hearts when it comes to love and how to behave.
Violence & Scariness
Two men are run through with swords. Another stabbed who dies of his wounds. Magical healing after bullet to the chest and poisoning. Boxing matches with bloody injuries. A broken nose. Mentions of hangings, a stabbing death, insurgents rounded up and killed. Many mentions of a man stabbed and buried in secret, and assassinated monarchs.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Couple has sex, with little described. Kissing, undressing, groping described in detail on another occasion. Naked coed swimming. Mention that main character has had dozens of lovers. Scene in brothel with groping, talk of paying customers going to rooms.
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"Ass," "hell," and "damn," with outdated negative words for women like "trollop."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking to drunkenness -- ale and wine -- by 18-year-olds. One says he's drinking heavily at a boxing match "to have a better time." Wine at dinner and parties.
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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 a 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.
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.
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