Thank you NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Synopsis: Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of the undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her.
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them closer together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
I have to admit I’d completely forgotten that I requested this until I received my approval from the publisher. Then I remembered that it was the book that Rick Riordan raved about on Goodreads back in November. I downloaded it to my kindle, looked skeptically at the cover (which I didn’t like although the giant bat is cool) and thought “Oh what the heck!” and dived in. Three hours and 336 pages later I emerged with, as my husband tells me, a huge goofy smile on my face. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Thorn and Lily who each have a very distinctive voice. You wouldn’t think a poor son of an outlaw and a young girl who’s the heir to a magical kingdom would have much in common but they do. Given that they’re only thirteen-years-old this isn’t a case of insta-love, although towards the end there is a smattering of light romance introduced. Instead, in my mind these are two kindred spirits who are each strong in their own right, but when they’re together, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Not quite as well developed is K’leef who becomes the third member of the group but he’s very sweet and I have hopes we’ll find out even more of his backstory in the next book. I did think the mystery of who the villain was that orchestrated the murders of Lily’s parents and brother a bit predictable, but I don’t think tweens will be bothered by this at all. Adding to the overall enjoyment of the story is the world-building which is sheer perfection. You would think a kingdom of shadows would be gloomy but it’s not. With vampires and other undead creatures, ghosts, and bats, it reminded me a little of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The standout though is Hades the gigantic bat whose personality leaps off the pages thanks to Thorn’s talent with animals. While I didn’t really care for the cover, the helpful map, and crisp black and and white illustrations throughout the book further bring the story to life. And if you get the book in hardcover there’s this flip-book feature with a little bat that kids will get a kick out of. In the end with it’s appealing characters, short chapters, and an absolutely perfect conclusion, Shadow Magic is a middle-grade fantasy that readers will find near impossible to put down. I would honestly rank Joshua Khan up there with YA fantasy giants like J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. I can’t wait for his second book Dream Magic to come out next year.