Books, General

Shadowblack | Review

Title: Shadowblack

Author: Sebastian de Castell

Rating: 2 Stars

Dates read: 22 Aug 18 – 20 Sep 18

Publication date: 27 Oct 17

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Genre(s): Young Adult; Fantasy



Four months after fleeing his own people, Kellen has discovered he’s an even worse outlaw than he was mage. It doesn’t help that his only allies are a swaggering card player and a thieving squirrel cat.

Then he meets Seneira, a blindfolded girl who isn’t blind, and whose secrets get them caught up in a conspiracy of magic, blackmail and murder. Now Kellen must find the mage responsible before the entire frontier falls victim to the mystical plague known as the shadowblack.

*I received an e-ARC of this book courtesy of Hot Key Books and Net Galley in return for a fair and honest review*

Boy oh Boy where to begin with this book. I am going to prefix this review by saying that I read and reviewed the first instalment, and I absolutely loved the idea, and I have finished this book thinking that this is a really unique fantastical world that I could really love. The problem still remains the writing, or more importantly, the story telling. I tried and I tried, I put it down, I read it in different formats, I tried to avoid speed reading, I didn’t everything I could to try and save it, but I really didn’t like it which is such a shame.

OK, where do we begin? The good bits? OK, yes let’s start with the good bits. I absolutely love the idea of wandering female warriors of unknown power and seriously brilliant manipulative skills. The whole world in which the magician’s learn and operate, the way they have different magical abilties and can call on different bands and properties is fascinating and fantastic. There are strong male and female characters, and there are relationships I feel are really important. There are magical beings, talking animals, and a magic that is indescribable and has a completely unknown powers. Somehow, with all of this wonder and creativity, the story falls flatter than a pancake.

For a start, it’s messy. The writing doesn’t flow write, and I often find it hard to track who is who and what is what. I am a speed reader, I read from a whole host of genres and levels, and have never struggled to understand a book in the way I did with this, which is surprising considering it is a YA novel. The pacing is unusual which means it surges where it isn’t supposed to and you wait a long time for things to happen when they shouldn’t do, and things come out at you with no time to recover from the action before.

On top of this, as great as the characters and the magic is, it’s so unexplored and untapped. Du Castell has created a really rich creative pool and yet it feels like we are swimming the surface and be dragged down when we need more information. I don’t feel like we’re being shown or told anything, it’s just kind of dumped there weirdly when you need it and is wholly missable. 

I don’t want to shit all over this series because I know it is deeply loved by many, and others don’t have such a negative reaction, but after experiencing two books within this world, I’m not actually sure I could tell you much of anything that has happened before, and certainly feel like embarking on the third story would be a huge mistake. 

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