Last year, an author made me fall in love with a story I’d always hated. Or, perhaps a better way of saying it is: last year an author retold and expanded on a story I’d never liked… and I LOVED what she did. So, when the opportunity for me to read a review copy of book two came along it was kind of a no-brainer.
That first book hadn’t exactly ended on a cliff-hanger… but yeah. It did, too. The best kind, right? So what would she do after sprinkling pixie Dust all over the literary world? Well, she tackled Shadow (and not the old, “me… and my shadow… strolling down the av-en-ue…”).
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When Shadows Take on New Motives Readers Better Beware
I had forgotten all about the part in Peter Pan where Peter cuts off his shadow. Maybe it is just the Disney rendition of it? I don’t know. But in Shadow, Kara Swanson picks up with the subtle but rich symbolism and near allegory she used in Dust and runs with it.
Bit by bit, layer by layer, she lays out the entire story with all the questions answered before we ever get to the reveal, and yet I couldn’t pin it down. I could see the answer just sitting there, but I never knew what it meant! Brilliant writing? Probably. My lack of knowledge or interest in the original stories of Neverland? I’m sure it played into the whole thing. In fact, I suspect there’s a lot of both of those, now that I think of it.
Here’s the thing, though. It doesn’t matter. This story is so rich, deep, heartbreaking, and inspiring that she could have handed me every clue in a neatly organized report, or sprung them all on me a second before the reveal, and I doubt that I would have cared.
Because this book… is that amazing.
Like many fantasy works, Shadow is darker than its predecessor. And I’m glad, actually. With the parallels I see between this story and the redemption story of Jesus, it needs to be. Think about it. We don’t see the Light for the brilliance it is, without first acknowledging darkness.
That’s another parallel to the first book. In that one, I saw a similarity between the pixie dust and the blood of Christ (lots of poetic license, but it’s there). In this one, I saw a parallel to the solution to the overarching problem and the beauty of Christ’s love for His bride… the church.
Kara Swanson is a master of taking a story that I probably missed the point of as a child and making it come to life and teach me as an adult. If that isn’t beautiful, what is? I’m in love with the world she created, and I want more. But I think this is it. I think we have the end of Peter, Claire, and Connor.
One last thing.
My more literary, critical self wants to attack one choice she made at the end. I want to say it was convenient and a problem overused in fantasy. I want to denounce that choice. Here’s the thing, though. I can’t. There are subtle nuances that come in because she chose to do it. Readers get an extra measure of satisfaction they otherwise wouldn’t have because Kara knew her story best and chose to do what was truly best instead of what was “textbook best” (and different people would have pointed to different textbooks!).
In the end, I think she made the best decision to ensure that Shadow reveals the entire story that needed to be told.
I recommend Shadow to lovers of Peter Pan, lovers of Dust, lovers of fantasy and symbolic literature. I don’t recommend it for readers who are offended by magical elements in fantasy.
Shadow is on tour with Celebrate Lit.
Author: Kara Swanson
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Release date: July 13, 2021
Peter Pan has crash-landed back on Neverland. But this is not the island he remembers.
Desperate to rescue Claire and the fractured Lost Boys, Peter must unravel what truly tore his dreamland apart. But with each step, he is haunted by more of his own broken memories. Not even Pan himself is what he seems.
Claire Kenton is chained to a pirate ship, watching the wreckage of Neverland rocked by tempests. When she finally finds her brother, Connor is every bit as shattered as the island. Claire may have pixie dust flowing in her veins—but the light of Neverland is flickering dangerously close to going out forever.
To rescue Neverland from the inescapable shadow, the boy who never grew up and the girl who grew up too fast will have to sacrifice the only thing they have left: each other.
About the Author
As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent her childhood running barefoot through the lush jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the fantasy genre.
The award-winning author of The Girl Who Could See, Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light-shattering darkness, connecting with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order. Kara chats about coffee, fairytales, and bookish things online (@karaswansonauthor) and at karaswanson.com.