Written by Sophie Jordan
Published February, 2016 by HarperTeen
Genres: Fantasy, Medieval
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.
But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.
With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
Despite being disappointed by Sophie Jordan’s Firelight many years ago, I was extremely excited to pick up Reign of Shadows. The premise was wonderful and the cover was to die for. It wasn’t long into the book, however, that I realised it wasn’t the book I had hoped for.
The synopsis promises; ‘With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.’ Unfortunately I have to disagree on all counts – especially when it comes to the ‘lush’ writing. The romance is NOT star-crossed, at least not to me. Fowler is just a dude and Luna is a special snowflake. There’s nothing star-crossed about them other than Fowler’s initial dislike of her, and his unwillingness to get attached to anyone (nothing new there). And that bit about Sophie Jordan at her best? If this is her best, then I don’t think I’ll be picking up another one of her books.
“When I was a little girl I used to dream my parents were alive. There was no black eclipse. No evil royal chancellor who killed my parents and seized power. The sun still lived. It didn’t hide behind the moon. It arrived every day. Crops grew. People were happy. Safe. No one was hungry. No one suffered in the dark. And I could see.”
The atmosphere of Reign of Shadows was quite enjoyable. Although I couldn’t wrap my head around HOW things like plants, etc. had survived for seventeen years without sunlight, I was able to suspend my disbelief and appreciate the dark world Sophie Jordan had created. I wasn’t entirely sold on the ‘Dwellers’ as zombie-like monsters, but the fact that creatures had risen up from within the earth to claim the surface was fascinating enough. Sophie Jordan also managed to keep this creepy, damp vibe going on for the whole book.
The world-building, however, wasn’t immersive enough. We never really got a good picture of how the world worked BEFORE the eclipse, or really got invested enough in Luna’s family and their importance to the kingdom, despite them being the royals. I found it hard to care about Relhok or its surrounding kingdoms. I felt as if names and places were being thrown around merely as filler, rather than developing the world or the story.
The descriptions and plot were a bit flimsy, too. I don’t know how many times I read the word ‘loamy’… That aside, I never felt I was particularly invested in the story itself. It had the potential to be one of those suspenseful journeys of survival, but instead it was littered with minor incidents that required Fowler and Luna be in danger from some new foe, all the while taking turns to save one another.
“What do you know of the world? How often do you even step outside these walls? The way Sivo reacted when you returned with me, I don’t imagine very often. You’re blind. You can’t know.”
As for Luna as a main character, I can only say ‘meh’. The blind princess of Relhok is the only surviving member of the royal family, now hunted by a usurper king who had her parents killed the day of her birth. Luna made stupid decisions, all the time. She constantly whinged about being trapped in her tower, but as soon as she was outside, she kept saying she regretted not appreciating her safety. Duh, we could’ve told you that.
Luna is blind, but she constantly does things that a blind person couldn’t POSSIBLY do… … like deciding to trek through a Kingdom on her own, despite never having been ten feet away from the tower she’s lived in her whole life. She also manages to navigate a TREETOP COLONY, whilst running, when a wrong step could mean a certain plummet to the ground.
Jumping back to the plot for a second, I think this story could have been better without the inclusion of the throne usurper, Cullan. It would have been enough to see the heir to throne trying to survive this new world and figure out if she still had a place as royalty within the chaos. I’m shocked that any semblance of a kingdom or ‘rule’ still survives in this world.
“Fowler was there. I sensed him like my own heartbeat inside my chest. Somehow he had become a part of me. As intrinsic as the blood in my veins…”
Reign of Shadows also suffers from a heady dose of insta-love… surprise, surprise. Fowler is the first man her age Luna has ever come across… so of course she’s curious about him, which turns into attraction. Fowler, having lost everyone he’s ever loved, is dead set against falling for anyone or even allowing himself to care. Yep, you know the story already, right? By the end of the book they’re swooning all over each other and declaring their love. Luna even goes as far to say that leaving Fowler would be harder than it was leaving Sivo and Perla, two people who cared for her HER ENTIRE LIFE, and were basically her parents. Colour me outraged.
At 300 or so pages, this book was thankfully not too long or hard to get through. Sure, I was groaning 70% of the time, but there were some interesting parts that surprised me. I particularly enjoyed the different types of groups that had emerged within the darkness – such as the bat eaters and the kelp fishers.
I’ve only put this book down about ten minutes ago, so I’m still scratching my head at the ending. How on earth was that meant to be a conclusion to the first book in the series? I wouldn’t even class it as a ‘cliff-hanger’ as it felt more like the ending of a mid-book chapter.
I doubt I’ll be picking up the second book in the series… Reign of Shadows, while it was a new and unique setting, didn’t offer me enough in all other departments. I will be looking out for the next cover, however, because I’m still strangely in love with this one.