Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: October 16, 2012
(Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher!)
Published by: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense.  

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

1. (+) Darcy, the protagonist - Spunky, hard-working, creative, fresh, independent. Makes mistakes and learns from them. Has a loyal group of friends but a past that suggests that she wasn't always so liked. Vulnerable enough to make her easy to relate to yet still strong. 
2. (+) World-building - What I liked most about the world was how real and applicable it felt to today's society-- particularly the shades, terrorism, and issues of belonging. The shades and their history were well-built and believable. Rutkoski uses Darcy's ignorance to show you the details little by little so that you are experiencing the world with Darcy. This also happens as Darcy travels between both versions of Chicago and learns more about her past and that of her (new) family. Although there are info-dump sections, they don't occur all at once, and they're placed after a discovery that demands an explanation, so really you forget they're info-dumps. In general, I was impressed by the amount of thought and detail Rutkoski placed into creating this fresh and original world.
3. (+) Romance - It's not easily earned. So many times, the characters misread each other's emotions and intentions, but that made the union that much more interesting for me at least. I also was really pleased with the fact that Conn and Darcy become friends and learn how to trust each other before falling in love, and that Darcy recognizes how her behavior in the beginning can be construed -- that she knows she's being a bit dependent, a bit foolish about a guy who she can sense isn't everything he seems. Although Conn at first seems like that typical "mysterious/hard/silent" type, there is a lot more to him than meets the eye.
4. (+) Themes - I would like to refer you to the Goodreads quote section. Second chances, friendship, belonging, identity, faith, presence, terrorism, and more that I just can't think of now. Stephanie Sinclair, on Goodreads, said it best: "All her life Darcy has wanted to know about the past she couldn't seem to remember, but the longer she spends in the alternate division the more she discovers that it's filled with more that just shadows." I think that's a good metaphor, and a great way of describing part of the character growth Darcy goes through (see below).
5. (+) Character Growth - Yay for a protagonist who grows a lot in the first book! Minus the fact that the ending leaves room for some unresolved issues to be later developed, this book could have been a stand-alone novel, especially given how much stronger Darcy becomes by the end.
6. (+/-) Characters - While Darcy's friends provided a lot of entertainment, and while it was nice to see a female protagonist in paranormal romance who had friends beyond what the romantic interest provided, I didn't think the characters (beyond Darcy & Conn) were developed enough for me to believe in their authenticity.
7. (+/-) Plot - While there are a lot of good twists, there are also some which are not explained very well, or at least some that felt so rushed, I had trouble suspending my disbelief. Other than that, the plot was satisfying in that it had clearly defined stages--the beginning for our characters/setting the stage, everything thrown into uncertainty, and counting down till the final battle/realization.
8. (+) Writing - I particularly liked the writing because of Darcy's spunky voice. I thought it was quite original and refreshing, so I don't remember feeling as if the writing suffered from some of the common mistakes (i.e. cliches, etc.). Also, it had a literary feel to it which was enjoyable.
9. (--) Pacing - This was the worst part. There were times when I considered putting down my computer, because the story started to drag, while I wanted it to hurry along so I could find out what happens. I'm glad I kept at it, though, because I thought the book was certainly worth it.
10. (+) The Cover - What a beautiful reflection of the Shades and an alternate Chicago. And the blues-- perfect for the mood too.

The Shadow Society takes paranormal romance to another level with its detail-oriented world-building, unpredictable twists, and themes that bring an unexpected layer to the character relationships. A recommended read, if you don't mind the length/a slow start.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that the pace wasn't that good, but I hear a lot of things I do like. The strong main heroin and the world-building are always two important things, so I'm glad that they were great. I'm going to check this out, because overall, I like the sound of the story :) Great review, thanks for sharing.

  2. This seems awesome! Honestly, you had me at "Chicago," but the description and your review clinched it. Too bad about the pacing, but I love strong characterization. Must read.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  3. I love stories about alternate worlds so the blurb about this book caught my interest. Good characters and an original, well built story world are important to me so I'm glad to read your positive comments on those areas. It's too bad about the slow start but it sounds like it's still a great book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)


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