• Shadowfell
  • Shadowfell


4.3 28
by Juliet Marillier

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Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel

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Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death—but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For those who wish that Tolkien had explored the character of Aragorn more deeply, Marillier (the Sevenwaters trilogy) provides the next best thing. Flint, unlike Strider, is younger than he looks, but he’s every bit as skillful. On the day the narrator, 15-year-old Neryn, loses her last connection to family and home, Flint is there to extricate her from disaster and set her on the path of destiny, no longer a victim but an agent in the struggle against a cruel king who has twisted and poisoned his realm. How much of an agent Neryn might be, only Flint and the Good Folk, the fae, seem to guess. Marillier presents a classic quest in the high fantasy tradition, but there are no noble warriors to be found in this first book in a planned trilogy. Neryn’s gifts lie in seeing, listening, and asking, and the turning points are marked by belief, not battles. The land of Alban is not a comfortable place, Flint is not a comforting man, and Neryn is up to the challenges of both. Ages 12–up. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2012:
“For those that wish that Tolkien had explored the character of Aragorn more deeply, Marillier provides the next best thing.”

VOYA - Pam Carlson
Neryn fears she is about to lose both her virtue and her life when her gambling father wagers her in an unsuccessful game of chance. Instead, the floating casino explodes, and the winner, Flint, offers her protection from the king's men responsible for the act. Loathsome King Keldec has banned all magic that he cannot control, and Neryn has become one of his targets. Neryn has the ability to see the Good Folk, an elfish people dwelling almost invisibly in the woods. As she and Flint travel, she begins to suspect that this is but a fragment of her abilities. Neryn may be a Caller, with the rare ability to unite humans and nonhumans. If so, this would be the end for the king. She is determined to reach Shadowfell, a rebel hideout. Even as her developing abilities are tested, her growing reliance on Flint is shattered with the discovery that he is one of the king's most trusted men. Predictably, he is hiding his own gift, one as impressive as Neryn's and also life threatening, should the king discover that he is part of the rebel band. Danger and death accompany the two in their travels. Will their quest to save their homeland of Alban succeed? Will Neryn's gift be unleashed to unite the people? Marillier follows the formula for this genre well with strong, charismatic characters. Still, it is a formula—brave insurgents, murderous king, magical folk, and Lord-of-the-Rings scenery. Attentive readers will foresee the finish from the beginning of this cliff-hanger, the first of a trilogy. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Children's Literature - Jennifer Greene
In the world of Alban, being different can get you killed. Or worse. Evil King Keldec's soldiers capture anyone with notable abilities and subject them to mindscrapers, magicians who bend their will to the king's evil purposes. However, when the mindscrapings go wrong, an individual is left ruined, unable to even care for herself, a situation fifteen-year-old Neryn witnessed firsthand when men came for her grandmother. Recently orphaned, Neryn must brave the harsh elements, hunger, and risk capture as she makes her way to the last refuge for magical humans—Shadowfell. She meets a young man named Flint, for whom she feels a particular affinity, but can she trust him? Will she prove the virtues foretold in ancient legend? Is there more to her talent of seeing the small magical beings called the Good Folk than even she realizes? Layered with beautiful descriptions of natural settings, interesting magical abilities, fascinating characters, and heartwarming relationships, this fantasy quest proves much more enjoyable than its slightly formulaic plot might suggest. The story offers well-developed, varied characters and a strong female protagonist. Even the minor characters are interesting, leaving us to feel motivation and understanding for even the most non-human of them. While the relationship between Neryn and Flint is central to the story, it is never sexually romantic and is appropriate for younger readers. As the first leg of our heroine's journey, the book leaves readers anxious for the rest of the planned trilogy. What role will the shadow master play in Alban's politically changing world? Will Neryn reach her potential as a leader? Will Flint be revealed as a spy? What creatures will we encounter in the geographical regions promised to come? Recommended for young adults and adults interested in fantasy adventure. Reviewer: Jennifer Greene
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—An engaging read for fans of traditional fantasy. Neryn's father, her only surviving relative, has just wagered her in a game of chance-and lost. For years they have been on the run, living cold and hungry at the margins of society in an attempt to hide Neryn's dangerous secret: she has the magical ability to see and sense the Fey creatures that populate Alban. But all magic has been outlawed in the realm except that which is practiced by the king's men. Now Neryn finds herself with Flint, the winner of the wager. He seems to be a potential ally, and she is tempted to confide in him as she embarks on her quest to join a resistance movement. But he is obviously withholding information, and besides, all confidences are dangerous in a world in which the king's men conduct violent raids on all who are rumored to resist the regime. Both characters face serious and interesting moral dilemmas, and the romance between them feels less rushed than in some fantasy romances. Fans of Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce will find much to enjoy in this first installment of a planned trilogy.—Hayden Bass, Seattle Public Library, WA
Kirkus Reviews
In an alternate ancient British Isles, an intrepid heroine may save the kingdom from its wicked ruler. Marillier's deep knowledge of folklore and the early-medieval period shine through, but never overwhelm, her latest. In Alban, the Good Folk (widely varied, magical creatures) have occasionally intermingled with humans, and as a result, some humans are "canny." Canny Neryn can see the Good Folk, which may only be the beginning. But tyrannical King Keldec has turned Alban into a realm of fear and hatred where canny folk are killed or used as weapons. Neryn and her father have fled the king's Enforcers for years, haunted by their village's massacre. When a mysterious stranger saves Neryn from her father's drunken gambling and an Enforcer raid, Neryn finds herself journeying towards Shadowfell, the secret rebel enclave she hopes exists. Neryn's struggles--to exist day to day, to make peace with the tragedies of her past and the uncertainties of her present and, above all, to grasp and even use her own terrible power--ground this tale. The slightest thread of a blossoming relationship winds throughout, while magic imbues everything but feels real; the Good Folk are other, but not, in this carefully detailed world, fantastic. Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger things ahead. (Historical fantasy. 13 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Shadowfell Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

As we came down to the shore of Darkwater, the wind sliced cold right to my bones. My heels stung with blisters. Dusk was falling, and my head was muzzy from the weariness of another long day’s walk. Birds cried out overhead, winging to nighttime roosts. They were as eager as I was to get out of the chill.

We’d heard there was a settlement not far along the loch shore, a place where we might perhaps buy shelter with our fast-­shrinking store of coppers. I allowed myself to imagine a bed, a proper one with a straw mattress and a woolen coverlet. Oh, how my limbs ached for warmth and comfort! Foolish hope. The way things were in Alban, people didn’t open their doors to strangers. Especially not to disheveled vagrants, and that was what we had become. I was a fool to believe, even for a moment, that our money would buy us time by someone’s hearth fire and a real bed. Never mind that. A heap of old sacks in a net-­mending shed or a pile of straw in a barn would do fine. Anyplace out of this wind. Anyplace out of sight.

I became aware of silence. Father’s endless mumbled recounting of past sorrows, a constant accompaniment to our day’s journey, had come to a halt, and now he stopped walking to gaze ahead. Between the water’s edge and the looming darkness of a steep wooded hillside, I could make out a cluster of dim lights.

“Darkwater settlement,” he said. “There are lights down by the jetty. The boat’s there!”

“What boat?” I was slow to understand, my mind dreaming of a fire, a bowl of porridge, a blanket. I did not hear the note in his voice, the one that meant trouble.

“Fowler’s boat. The chancy-­boat, Neryn. What have we got left—how much?”

My heart plummeted. When this mood took him, setting the glitter of impossible hope in his eyes, there was no stopping him. I could not restrain him by force; he was too strong for me. And whatever I said, he would ignore it. But I had to try.

“Enough for two nights’ shelter and maybe a crust if we’re lucky, Father. There’s nothing to spare. Nothing until one of us gets some paid work, and you know how likely that is.”

“Give me the bag.”

“Father, no! These coppers are our safe place to sleep. They’re our shelter from the wind. Don’t you remember what happened last—­”

“Don’t tell me what to do, daughter.” His eyes narrowed in a way that was all too familiar. “What’s better than a drink of ale to warm us up? Besides, I’ll double our coppers on the boat. Triple them. Nobody beats me in a game of chance. Would you doubt your father, girl?”

Doubt was hardly the word for what I felt. Yes, he had once been skilled in such games. He’d had a reputation as a tricky player, full of surprises. Sorrow and reversal, hardship and humiliation, had eaten up that clever fellow, leaving a pathetic shell, a man who liked his ale too much and could no longer distinguish between reality and wild dream. Father was a danger to himself. And he was a danger to me, for strong drink loosened his tongue, and a word out of place could reveal the gift I fought to hide from the world every moment of every day. He’d talk, and someone would tell the Enforcers, and it would all be over for the two of us. But I was heartsick and weary—­too weary to fight him any longer.

“Here,” I said, handing over the bag. “I hate the chancy-­boat. The only chance it will give you tonight is the chance to squander what little we have. If you lose this money, we’ll be sleeping out in the open, at the mercy of whoever happens to pass by. If you lose it, you’ll lose what little self-­respect you have left. But you’re my father, and I can’t make your choices for you.”

He looked at me directly, just for a moment, and I thought I saw a glimmer of understanding in his eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. “You hate me,” he muttered. “You despise your own father.”

I could have told him the truth: that I hated his weakness, that I hated his anger, that the days and months and years of looking after him and keeping him out of trouble and protecting him from himself had worn me down. But I loved him too. He was my father. I loved the man he used to be, and I still hadn’t given up hope that, someday, he could be that man again. “No, Father,” I said, plodding after him as he strode ahead, for the prospect of a game and a win had put new life in his step. “I’m cold and tired, that’s all. Too tired to mind my words.”

As we made our way closer to the lights of the chancy-­boat, which rocked gently in the dark water beside a small jetty, I was aware of pale eyes watching me from the branches of the pines. I did not allow myself a glance toward them. Small feet shuffled in the fallen leaves and pattered along behind us a way, then skipped off into the woods. I did not allow myself to turn back. A whisper teased at me: Neryn! Neryn, we are here! I closed my ears to it. I had been hiding my secret for years, since Grandmother had explained the peril of canny gifts. I had become adept at concealment.

I stiffened my spine and gritted my teeth. Maybe there would be nobody on the chancy-­boat but its captain, Fowler, who had some understanding of my father’s situation. Who would want to spend such a chilly night playing games anyway? Who would be visiting such an out-­of-­the-­way place as Darkwater? We had come here because the settlement lay so far from well-­traveled roads. We had come because nobody knew us in these parts. Except Fowler, and we had not expected him. But Fowler wouldn’t talk. He was a bird of passage, a loner.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2012:
“For those that wish that Tolkien had explored the character of Aragorn more deeply, Marillier provides the next best thing.”

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