Shadowfell series (Shadowfell, Raven Flight, The Caller)
Neryn has always been able to see the Good Folk and in her world this has always been dangerous. Once alone and in danger it becomes the only reason she survives. More than that it becomes key to discovering her little ability is more than she ever thought.
Shadowfell starts off quick, plunging us into the world from Neryn’s PoV. This remains consistent throughout the series that we work from Neryn’s view. There are brief interludes in the form of letters to from another character Flint, that provide extra information for the reader and layer extra world-building so that we as the reader have just a tiny bit of extra information to work with.
The journey to the titular Shadowfell feels perilous and honestly is an excellent example that not everyone is a camping/survival expert. Particularly not 15 year old girls. No matter how often they have had to forage before. This alone make it unique in the troubles Neryn has in just getting to her destination. The struggles feel realistic. There isn’t always a deus ex machina to get her out of the problem she stumbles into. Often it’s Flint who manages to find her then do the requisite nursing back to health. A bit of a turn around from the standard trope of the boy who gets injured/sick and is nursed back to health by the girl.
There is enough early set-up for Neryn’s journey and the reasoning for why going to Shadowfell makes sense. I would have liked a little more detail on why or how the kingdom has gotten to this point but given that it’s a young adult target that is probably too much to expect.
Neryn has made it to Shadowfell and become a critical part of the rebel’s plan to free the country from the tyrannical King. She need to master her abilities, proving that she can indeed become a Caller.
Alot of Raven Flight is anchored in Neryn helping the rebels set up an early system and working relationship with the Good Folk. Demonstrating that a Caller is less a commander and more a intermediary that allows these conversations to happen in the first place.
This book also starts Neryn’s intentional learning in how to be a Caller with what are called the Guardians. Embodiment’s of the four cardinal directions and four elements. We saw the first, The Master of Shadows, in the first book though we didn’t really know it at the time. This book sees Neryn finding the Hag of the Isles and Lord of the North to continue her training. We also see more of Flint and Neryn’s romance that is not. Since they really don’t want to become entangled while trying to overthrow the Kind. Sensible if difficult, since feelings don’t listen.
Bit more of a struggle with this book since the pacing is a little choppy with the traveling and stopping to learn. The emotions that Neryn and more importantly Flint deal with are achingly real to read more than make up for that choppy pacing. We get to see a little more of what Flint deals with too in his spy role and how much that weighs on him. Again I wish we would could read more of the other side of this rather than the stock tyrant king.
Neryn has one more Guardian to find to complete her training as a Caller. The White Lady, who is the most elusive. There also appears another who has a similar gift to Neryn as a Caller but no where near her level of ethics.
Time is running out and the presence of the other Caller makes it even harder for Neryn to reconcile that those she Calls will be in danger in a fight that they would otherwise abstain from.
The lack of ethics in the other Caller was less a complete absence and just a lack of understanding. It was hard to comprehend he couldn’t see the Good Folk as actually people. But by the time he had come forth we’ve already had Neryn’s considerate approach as a standard expectation. The last book tied up a lot of the loose ends nicely in the story. We even get a little more detail on the other side even if it is just from direct observation. The queen and her adviser appear to be pieces of work. And the so called tyrant king appears to be more weak-willed than I would have expected given how the state of the world is attributed mainly to the king and not the royals in general. In the end we have a solid resolution to the story that is satisfying and show’s Neryn’s growth as a Caller and her considerate nature aligning well.
I read these 3 novels all in rapid succession. Marillier’s work has that tendency for me to be gripping enough that I want to read the next installment rather than wait. However even if i didn’t read them one after another they still would have been excellent reads to wait for. My main qualm with them was the one-sidedness of the story, there were clear instances of how the world got to this point. And the last book gave some excellent details about how it wasn’t always this way. But gosh I wanted more – to be fair Marillier does present multiple sides in her other book excellently which possibly set that expectation. That said, excellent young adult novels and they made for a relaxing set of evenings between reading other adult targeted works by Marillier. Solid 4-stars from me.