This is the second book recommended to me by the blog Sci-Fi & Scary that I’ve read and liked. SciFi & Scary described this middle-grade novel as atmospheric and haunting, which made me curious and eager to read it since I’ve read only a few middle-grade books like that. I’m glad I gave this one a try and will also read the next book in its duology.
Emmeline’s gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she’s grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company.
Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.
With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side. (Goodreads)
Shadow Weaver is a middle-grade fantasy novel set in a world where a few people are blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with special abilities every 25 years when a comet called the Cerelia Comet passes over their lands. The protagonist, Emmeline, is one of those people. She received the ability to control shadows.
Emmeline can manipulate shadows, but what unsettles her parents and those who work at her parents’ estate is that she can communicate with her own shadow. Emmeline says that she can talk to her shadow, Dar, and Dar can speak back to her. Unfortunately, Emmeline is the only person who can hear Dar, so no one believes that Dar can talk. Folks are also wary of Emmeline because in addition to playing with shadows, odd things have occurred which Emmeline seems to be the fault of but is unable to explain. Because of this, Emmeline lives a lonely and almost isolated life at her parents’ estate.
I was quickly swept up in the story when I began reading and completed it in just a few days. I immediately took a liking to Emmeline, became suspicious of Dar, and wondered why people were so wary of Emmeline. She seemed like a sweet, obedient child who would do no wrong, at least not intentionally. But as the story advanced, I began to wonder if Emmeline is an unreliable narrator and if I was instead tricked into liking and sympathizing with her when she was the guilty perpetrator of the horrible deeds she’s blamed for all along.
Coupled with Dar’s questionable antics, it added a bit of thrill to the story that kept me hooked and drove me to quickly complete the novel. I love how the story progresses and like how Emmeline develops throughout. I also like that the author doesn’t try to force a theme or message in the plot. There’s lots in this book about honesty, the value of friendship, and responsibility that’s deftly woven throughout the plot.
Though I like Emmeline, there were times when she annoyed me or made me question her motives. Since the story is told in the first-person, there is much about other characters, especially her shadow, that she does not know, but she suspects much and the truth is often obvious, so when she questions herself and speculate about what is going on, it made me wonder if she is acting clueless. But then I’d remember that Emmeline led a sheltered life at the estate and is very naïve so it’s possible that she actually does not know what is happening. I went back and forth on this almost the entire book because it made me wonder if the story is darker than it actually is.
The story is dark, but not scary. I love how atmospheric it is — set in the woods or at Emmeline’s parents’ cold mansion, lots of adventures at night when Emmeline would play with her shadows, and Dar’s creepiness — because it adds to the tone and tension in story. Apart from Dar, Simone, a little girl who can identify those with special abilities, also creeped me out and the conclusion, that final scene in the attic, was creepy too. I wonder what will happen in the next book. I’m pretty sure the solution in this one won’t last for long.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ 1/2
A dark, atmospheric novel that’s perfect to read around Halloween.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
It’s worth a Buy if you want to get it for a kid or if you enjoy middle-grade novels.
Also, if you like this, you might also like Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky.