The Wayfinder’s Apprentice (Shadows of the Umbra Book 1)

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4 Stars

There are a lot of really nice things about this book. It was well written and the characters were clearly defined. The motivations were real and it was easy to fall into this story. Still, I didn’t leave the experience as fulfilled as I thought I would.

Firstly I liked how Rose’s relationship with abuse was handled. There’s something very powerful and lingering about it being described through her physical and emotional actions towards the people that she meets. It lets the reader really feel the possible lifelong damage that has been done to her and also connect with how she is also possibly healing from it.

Edward is great. Like awesome sauce *swoons* I found him the most relatable as his story unfolds and you find out the one thing he wanted was taken from him and that decision has shaped his entire attitude through the novel. Also faults and all, he’s the type of hero that doesn’t get all wielded out by doing the right thing. In war people die. He manages to understand that and still be there to comfort Rose when she needs it.

Kyan, written perfectly. I didn’t find him funny, more of a nuisance which is frustrating since he is such a good character but I think other readers might not have a problem with this so perfect he shall remain even though I couldn’t particularly get into him.

Billy was great in the beginning but as it got to the end he just turned into a whiny annoying ‘but she’s just a child’ kind of guy. For a story that was almost void of the stereotypical stuff about children being too young to be involved in meetings and whatnot. Especially when they are 17 and above and in the midst of war, it was sad to see him devolve into this. Still, I’m here for anyone who can cook meals like Billy can. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

As I said the plot was easy to understand and the characters, side ones included, were interesting. But that’s where it sort of ends. For me, the importance, weight of the story didn’t lift. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t bother me but the limited view, first-person, of the story through Rose’s eyes made it hard to connect with this story.

With such a large cast of good characters, not knowing what is going on, what deals are being made. Who’s dying and who is on whose side made it difficult to reach beyond Rose’s journey and dive into the complexities of what the author created. Like I loved the training in the middle but also got bored with it because I knew all this stuff was going on beyond her part in the story and never got the chance to feel the weight of that. Be involved in it.

Edward talks about saving people and them being ungrateful but for all I know this could be in his head and the only person he’s actually saved is Rose. There’s a villain plotline in this book but I can’t feel that because Rose isn’t actively involved in figuring that out. Unlike in other first-person type stories where the lead finds out something or thinks they know something and actively walks into danger based on the clues the author drops, Rose just happens to be pulled into things while most of the stuff leading to this happens off-page. She suddenly finds things out without actively being involved in the finding out and, for me at least, you could tell where this was going cause the one clue Rose got wasn’t really that cryptic and she paid it no mind. Did not attempt to find out its meaning.

The story reads like it wants to be about the big picture while taking the route of doing this through Rose’s singular lens and since most of that happens when she isn’t there it’s hard to take the ‘war’ seriously, or the characters around her and their roll in it because we never get to see them actively involved. Unless they are saving her and then they always spirit her away and tell her, with limited details, what happened after they rescued her. This means the gritty details of what is actually happening with the plot happen beyond both her’s and the reader’s lens, so even then we still don’t really get to feel what’s going on because Rose doesn’t.

Also, like I said I did enjoy reading this, however, I didn’t read any of the flashbacks and I still understand the story and how the characters fit in it. I tend to only go back and read anything in italics if I’m confused and since this is a well-written story I was not confused or lost without reading them as there was enough information in the present day tale to keep it grounded.

The impression I got of this story overall is that it was much bigger than what was on the page. Like epic fantasy big and it needed more to make the situation Rose had accidentally landed in more powerful. Like reading about the struggle Mackless her boyfriend is going through. Understanding why Dmitri wants to make alliances with other factions of Umbra. I honestly still don’t know what the main war, beyond just the villain in this story, is all about. What has changed and who is suspected of being behind it? What is going on?

I guess what I’m saying is this story was possibly too good, and way too grand for it to only be told from Rose’s perspective. Even if all the perspectives were also in first person. That would still be okay as it isn’t the type of POV in this instance but the amount of them that limts the story and my ability to really dig into it. My only other gripe with the first person is it made it a little hard to fall into the actual world of Umbra. The details and descriptions felt like they were missing those extra’s you just can’t say when you are talking through one person’s voice. On a world-building side, I still can’t visualise what the Umbra looks like or even feels like in a ‘general’ sense that lives outside of how Rose alone connects with it. There are so many other creatures living in it and strange an new plants knowing how they all fit in beyond what Rose can actually tell us would’ve made it even more interesting/rich.

That being said the characters themselves are very well described. I can even imagine how some of them smell.

Plotwise, and this might be a spoiler, is the broken heart bit. When Rose finds out things about her friends, she is devastated. The story, however, holds out for one singular heartbreak. This felt like a missed opportunity to express how heartache has a variety of forms. Every sentence I read was like ‘how can she nor the other characters recognise how deep her pain lies?’ It didn’t stop there. Edward’s pain towards the Lore is also a very immense situation of heartache and betrayal that also gets glossed over. Considering teens and adults will read this it definitely feels like a chance to explore the breadth of heartache beyond the stereotypical romance type was missed. I was hoping so bad Rose would come to the same conclusion or at the very least the adults around her would point this out having more life experience, that she had already suffered devastating heartache. Neither happened.

Lastly, Rose wants to learn magic and the position she will hold is dangerous. But she doesn’t fight with a kill or be killed mentally and is crying about almost getting her friends killed. How does she expect to do this job if she isn’t willing to go all the way? It sort of reminded me of Harry Potter casting a disarming curse cause he didn’t want someone to fall off their broom and die when all his friends and the adults who came to get him were indeed aiming to destroy. Like I said above it’s war. People die and she signed up for this. Yet she experiences it without having to learn the hard lesson or be forced to face this fact because Heroes in these teen books are always so pure and wanting to save the world that their friends end up getting hurt and sometimes even killed because of what they don’t want to do. Again this was compounded by the most dangerous parts of the fights happening when she wasn’t there and the readers only being told they had happened after the fact.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. It checks all the boxes for a decent YA novel. Romance, angst, action, war, no real loss seeing as everybody lives but the feeling of loss was prevalent for a good length of the novel. There isn’t much not to like here. Unfortunately, as an epic journey, it read like a fair bit of missed opportunity by not delving into such a fun and exciting world by expanding the character universe. Even though I thought this was a major flaw, based on the target audience, fairly decent pacing, and enjoyable characters it’s still a solid four stars. There’s no denying it’s a well-crafted novel. I was left with an unfinished feeling especially with the ending simply saying this book’s bad guy was dealt with and that’s all we as readers got. I definitely needed more but I honestly feel most readers won’t. And that’s just fine. I’m sure this will be an interesting and fun series for whoever decides to give it a try, which they most definitely should.

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