The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller is light, refreshing and an absolute must read.
A fair warning, though: if you are looking for a book with characters who set a moral example to the YA community, this isn’t the book for you. But that is exactly what makes it so much fun to read.
The Shadows Between Us Review
The first chapter of The Shadows Between Us introduces Alessandra, the protagonist who does two things without shame: abuses her lovers and murders people.
Okay, murdered only one, but that’s besides the point. Soon enough she reveals that all those dreadful actions were nothing more than practice for the main event.
She goes to court to catch the eye of the king, marry him, kill him and become queen. The plan works splendidly, as far as the eye-catching goes. After that, everything becomes a lot more complicated.
Plot-wise, The Shadows Between Us exceeded my expectations. I find romance-focused books boring at times, but with a good mixture of murder mystery and romantic tension, it was full of turns and twists that kept me reading.
Predictable at times, for sure, but interesting and entertaining enough to stay up way too late at night.
It’s so nice to have characters who are not the “good guys”, and I can still root for them. I often felt horrible for wanting Alessandra and Kallias to succeed and get their happy ending, but I couldn’t help myself.
They are horrible people without a doubt. I also enjoyed the subtle hints that they are not completely lost. Yes, they are selfish, power-hungry killers, but there is teeny-tiny hope for their redemption. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.
The biggest letdown of The Shadows Between Us is that the rest of the characters are sadly one-dimensional. The friends, family and court members are all portrayed from a single angle. The father who wants money by selling his daughter in marriage.
The friend who wants to copy the main character in everything she does. The old jealous courtier woman who wanted to marry the late king and still bitter from rejection. Just like Zisha mentioned in her Cruel Prince review, I’m also not a big fan of the “bad sister” trope, and this book also presents us with it.
I understand that in a short book like this, it’s hard to build complex side characters, but none of these characters felt real enough to me.
The world-building in The Shadows Between Us isn’t overly complex, but it is sufficient. I find that many writers fail to find a balance and over-complicate their world at the expense of the story. For a short standalone like this, that’s clearly meant to be a quick and fun read rather than a deep epic saga. The world is simple but interesting enough to give us context.
I especially liked the history of the royal line and the choices Kallias must face because of it. If there is a positive message in the book, it’s clearly about the freedom of women, and the world Alessandra lives in demonstrates that point.
Overall, The Shadows Between Us is one of my top picks for 2020. If you are looking for a short, delightful standalone with morally questionable characters and a strong, determined heroine, this book is the perfect choice.
Looking for more reviews?
Check out our review of Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen