Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Shadowfell book 1. Pan Macmillan, 2012. ISBN 9781742611341.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. When the evil Enforcers from the Albanian king burn the boat that contains her father, Neryn has to make a choice. Will she travel north with Flint the man who rescued her or will she travel alone to the place called Shadowfell, where it was rumoured that a rebel band was gathering to try and save Alban. The Enforcers had killed her family and she is alone, desperately trying to hide the magical powers that make her a target for the king.
I have to admit that Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors. I loved her Sevenwaters series and her other series based on history and fantasy. Shadowfell has the feel of her earlier novels but is clearly aimed at a cross over audience of young adults and adults. The main characteristic of Neryn that stands out is her sheer determination and courage. Alone and hungry, she faces a daunting trip through rugged terrain to try and reach the North. She is helped by the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. Uncertainly is part of her journey. Although Flint comes to her rescue when she becomes seriously ill, she is still unsure whether she can trust him, She also is uncertain about the tests that she must perform to fully learn her magic. By the end of her journey to Shadowfell, she has grown in strength and self-belief into a heroine whose next journey is one that I will follow avidly.
Marillier's characters are often angst ridden and facing difficult moral and ethical decisions. This is certainly true in the case of Flint. His trials are exceptionally difficult, and his actions are so clouded in mystery that the reader is uncertain whether he is good or evil. This clever ambiguity keeps the pages turning to see what will happen next.
The addition of old Gaelic folklore is fascinating. The Good Folk, from tiny fairy like creatures to huge ogres and a trickster all have distinct personalities and are not like nursery rhyme characters. I particularly loved the old rhyme, 'Stanie mon, stanie mon, doon ye fa ' (Stony man, stony man, down you fall) and its use to help the rebels.
Readers of fantasy will welcome this intriguing world and will want to follow the paths of the Neryn, Flint and the rebels in following books.