March 5, 2019

Review: Shadow Call

Shadow Call Shadow Call by AdriAnne Strickland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the sequel to Shadow Run, and unfortunately, it's pretty dependent on knowing what happened in the first book. You kind of get a sense of what happened as you go along, but there's no recap and no explanation of terms. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it might entice you to go back and read the first book, which I recommend. That book was good. This one is better.

This book deals with the fallout from the events of the first. Nevarian Dracorte, formerly Prince Nevarian, gave up his kingdom and his inheritance to be with Qole Uvgamut, captain of the Shadow-fishing ship Kaitan Heritage, when he realized his family only wanted to exploit her and her crew. Unfortunately, the consequences of his actions come home in this story, when his sister Solara (who emerges as the somewhat over-the-top villain of this installment) kills his parents and seizes the throne, and forcibly annexes Qole's planet and the Shadow (mysterious element/energy source) found in its asteroid belt. Qole will not stand for this, and with Nevarian's help, she starts a rebellion. Together, they manage to fight Solara to a stalemate and win back the kingdom for Nevarian, and in the process learn more about themselves and about Shadow, that strange substance Qole can connect with and manipulate.

The main themes in this story are choice and responsibility. Nevarian is faced with some awful choices in this book (this story as a whole is pretty dark, much more than the first), and he finds it in himself the grit and ruthlessness needed to make the choices necessary in leadership. Qole, on the other hand, as the captain of a Shadow-fishing ship, has always been able to make tough choices, but she just wanted to live on her planet and run her ship, not to be thrust in the center of galactic events as she now is. Nevertheless, she faces up to what life has handed her, and steps up to protect her people. Both these characters learn and grow as this story progresses, and there are some genuinely touching scenes illustrating the changes they make. For instance:

Qole laughed in my head. I could hear her as clearly as though she were there; it was the laugh I knew she would give if I had pleaded for fairness with her. Get up, she would say, with the mercilessness born of familiarity. It's time to go to work.

My hands closed slowly into fists. In a world where Qole existed, I would never be able to sit, wallowing in self-pity, when there was work to be done. And every fear, every terror that pressed on my shoulders was lifted by a new thought: to be worthy of a love that expected more of me.

I stood. My dream was that a person like Qole could survive, and I would help create a universe they could believe in. It didn't matter if it was impossible, it was worth fighting for. All I could do was make one more choice.

I made it. It was time to fight.

The characterizations in this book continue to be pitch-perfect, and the science, while definitely not hard SF, is a bit better thought out in this story. (We also find out some intriguing things about Shadow, which leave plenty of questions to be answered if there is another book.) The romance is still understated, and more emotional and bittersweet. This is one of the best YA books from last year, and I hope there's a third book to wrap up this story.

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