Game of Shadows is a fantasy action-adventure of a teenage hero brought up in an urban set up in pursuit of his abducted mother in a land veiled from the rest of the world.
Choosing the book from Netgalley was a relatively easy task. The description from Netgalley talks about Celtic Gods and Goddesses, terrifying secrets, and battling beasts, enough to hook me in.
Game of Shadows: Review
The story follows a familiar arc. An unfortunate turn of events brings the reluctant hero closer to his destiny, fighting monsters and betrayals from close quarters in the process.
A teenager closely guarded and monitored by his mother, feels rebellious on one birthday morning. He wants his school mates and his neighbor to take him seriously, but they bully him (not the neighbor). One day, he snaps. He takes off, tricking his mother, and gets into a lot of trouble.
Here enter some scary mythical creatures straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds (scariest movie ever). There are many instances like this one, where the author guides us to films, characters, etc. to give us an idea of her inspiration. It also helps us get a clear visual of the scene. Can’t say I liked that many ‘tells’ but they were useful in some cases.
So, these harpy-like things called Ravens abduct the hero’s mother. Thinking about World of Warcraft my good Lords and Ladies.
Now, what can the poor guy do? He has to proceed with the rest of the story. So a cranky captain tries to pose as his fake grandfather which the boy doesn’t buy, and they set off on a journey to a mysterious land shielded from the normal human eye.
I am not sure if Game of Shadows qualifies as a portal fantasy as the part where the hero pops into the new territory is unclear to me (remind self to ask the Author). He looked into someone’s eyes and turned out to be locked in a ship! I assumed the poor boy doesn’t know the ‘how’ either. Hence the anxious wait for a sequel.
We have reached a country from the folklore, fought off sea serpents (oo, I love those), met ‘Siddhas’ (btw, I knew about Indian Siddhas, not about Celtic ones), and finally reached a castle. Wish we had spent some time here before going into the forest.
Readers, I think I missed something important. Oh, yes. Our hero, the gallant Ethan Makkai, can see ghosts. Hmm, yeah, not kidding at all. He can talk to them and apparently, that is the sign of royalty. Bibbity bobbity boo ya! He is royally screwed. Ahem. Focus.
The power of seeing or calling upon ghostly beings for interviews, Radharc (?) seem to have passed on from ancestors to the future heir to the throne. Obviously, our guy has it, bypassing the direct bloodline, aka, King’s son.
He meets a beautiful, pissed off woman/girl, Lily before he reaches the castle. His cousin joins the quest by knocking off the girl’s brother.
We meet a mythical hybrid who is looking for a mate and sets her mind on Ethan. Poor guy and his charm. That scene was funny.
The girl and Ethan’s cousin save his ass as our hero admits he has no training in horse riding, sword fighting, etc. since, hello, he grew up in LA.
One thing, the young protagonists, haven’t spent enough time in Tara, and Ethan is mostly protected by his group. He learns sword fighting, horse riding, etc. after the climactic battle. As his grumpy father said, it is in his Irish blood, so he delivers when necessary.
The facts are more or less consistent throughout the story.
The action scenes are pretty great. I liked the description of each path, location, action scenes, character details. The author knows how to help a reader visualize the simplest of sequences. The narration gives us breathing time before the next piece of action starts.
The language isn’t as complicated as I had expected it would be. The names of characters, places, etc. are more urban than fantastical, barring a few like the hero’s mother, and likes.
I haven’t fallen head over heels with the character of Ethan. Flawed or not, Lily is more heroic than him. Maybe, the author intends things to be that way. Ethan will eventually grow out of his youth and mature as the story moves forward (in sequels). Runyan Cooper is an impressive figure in a classic anti-hero-turns-out-to-be-a-mentor way. The traitor wasn’t a big secret. I knew almost half way, but I read a lot of crime fiction/mysteries.
The magic system wasn’t elaborate but enjoyable.
The monsters aren’t that scary, and I didn’t feel that invested in any of the characters (Bean, maybe), the plot and the action drew me in. I want to read the next book to find out what happens after the events of this one and not because I am rooting for the hero.
The primary antagonist’s change in fate, the rise of his army, such elements strongly reminded me of Harry Potter scenes. It was one of the best-worked scenes. A character stalking them all around felt familiar to Gollum (not as memorable, though) from LOTR.
The ending calls for a sequel but doesn’t leave us with an annoying cliff-hanger. A big thank you for that, Erika Lewis.
I offer 3.5 Bohostars to Game of Shadows (rated 4 in GoodReads) for a fast and enjoyable read. I finished the book in three nights, didn’t have to skip pages or skim-read. Game of Shadows, if not an outstanding book, is a fun one. Pretty good for the adventurous mind.
What starts as an urban fantasy story of a sulky teenager and a hard-to-express feeling for a cute girl and a few crows turns out to be a daring quest for destiny and a fight between the classic good vs. evil.
Though featuring teenagers the action and violence (no gore, just fear factor) in the story is YA level.
You can check the book here.
I received an ARC from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.