I was sent this novel by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, and when I started reading I was honestly all set to give it two stars. It seemed full of done-to-death dystopian YA cliches and the plot just wasn’t captivating. But, the last hundred pages were dramatic and fast-paced, so much so that I ended up bumping it up by a whole star.
The story follows Maia Graystone, an exile from the Emperor’s royal court, who must compete in the Shadow Trials to save her younger brother. An asteroid is hurtling towards earth, but by winning the Trials, Maia can gain two spots for her and her brother aboard a space station, safe from the impact.
A lot of people have compared Shadow Fall to The Hunger Games or Divergent, and for good reason. The trials are a less imaginative version of the Games, and society is split into Golds, Silvers, and Bronzes, which if you squint looks rather like the Divergent factions.
The characters, too, fall into archetypes that we’ve all seen before. The protagonist, Maia who doesn’t think she’s anything special, but is actually the chosen one. The prince, Caspian (Narnia much?), rebelling against his father’s ideals, and the rogue, Riser, who becomes Maia’s partner in the Trials. And, of course, a love triangle develops between the three of them. Yawn.
But what the book lacked in originality, it made up for in unexpected twists. The author successfully turns several of these tropes upside down, and transforms the final third of the novel into a stirring page-turner.
The first two thirds are full of confused world-building and muddled plot, but the last hundred pages are the novel’s saving grace. The main characters race against time to complete their goal and several tense encounters make it for a gripping climax.
At the beginning of the novel I wasn’t invested in the welfare of the characters or the outcome of their quest, but by the end I’d developed a connection with Maia. She’s no Aelin or Amani, but I’ll certainly pick up the sequel when it comes out to see what happens to her.