Into the Shadowlands

3 Stars

This was a hard read. I enjoyed it but some things were off and it was a matter of deciding if this was a Five star even though I had issues with it story like I’ve done before or a Three stars because some of these issues are things I usually don’t give a pass too. It sits at three stars unfortunately. This is mostly because my first issue came in the beginning before I actually started to enjoy the novel.

Let’s just talk about what I loved. The world itself was brilliant. I like fantasies with a good prophecy and this one had that. And the hero wasn’t reluctant. This was mostly because he became the hero via a quest to save his brother. So all the annoying angst about just wanting to be a normal teen, and running away from destiny were pleasantly absent.

The creatures and the journey the heroes have to take kept me reading. There’s nothing like a few epic battles and carnage to set the pace for a good rescue mission. Especially when it doesn’t come with all that whiny ‘I don’t want to hurt anyone’ YA hero drama that is just distracting.

Overall, this story had all the right things to be awesome, but some of the plot decisions seemed odd. Roarke has some magical qualities and is having dreams. Almost all things magic find recurring dreams very important. That being said Roarke’s brother doesn’t take the dreams seriously and still goes into this contest. To be fair even writing this I’m not sure if Roarke himself took them seriously enough to tell him. The whole dream thing was basically washed over for the plot. Gedran can’t of course get captured if he takes the dream seriously. It didn’t stop there though. He has another vision about his brother being tortured and his travel companion, Eislyn, tells him it was just a dream. So twice the dream thing has been ignored but when there’s a mental connection between Gedran and Roarke we are suddenly to get on board with that vision getting believed.

Then, and this is a plot spoiler of sorts, his brother is transferred into the middle of the cursed lands presumably for the pleasure of the demon watching his magical life force be slowly etched out of him. He sends his minions to retrieve him but at the end he just creates a portal to get him. If it were that easy why all the mechanics of having him brought to him. Then there’s the fact that he was torturing Gedran as is evident by Roarke’s dream and Gedran wounds, so why did he do this away from the castle and furthermore why did he leave him there to be transported by minions when clearly, he portalled himself home. It was just a one-off thing to torture him at least a day away from the stronghold? So much about Gedran’s part in the story seemed off. If the demon wants to steal and torture why didn’t he have him strung up and whipped the entire length of the novel? Like serious hardcore torture?

The insta-love really killed this story for me. Like there wasn’t even any real flirtation and Gedran says you love her and then every page, I mean every page after that revolves around this love and it pulls so far away from the essence of the book, a boy on a mission to save his brother. I skimmed so much of the last quarter of this book. It got so deep into it that Roarke said it’s too dangerous and he didn’t want to risk losing her. This was when I really pretty much bowed out. When Eislyn shot that first arrow at a bear I was so excited. Finally, a woman who doesn’t need the male hero to survive. I knew it was a false hope cause Roarke’s first real thought of her was ‘I have to protect her’. I audibly groaned so the people on the bus heard me.

What was the point of giving her all these books, knowledge and skills if ultimately she gets relegated to arrow girl and Roarke still does all the work mostly? Even the demon says the male human that invaded his camp because when saving his brother that was exactly what happened. He did all the sword work and Eislyn shoots a good Arrow at the right moment to save him. Because that’s essentially her role. To keep him alive. The slow devolve into the insta love and then riding said romance all the way out to the end of the book was a lot of pages of stuff that took away from the focus of the book. Roarke defeating the demon.

It just became frustrating that, ultimately, other than always killing something with an arrow just at the right time to save Roarke, that it was at its core still a book about the hero protecting his woman and I was hoping with everything I had she was more than just an arrow shooter and Roarke wouldn’t take on a protector complex, and, most importantly, the romance would jsut be a light in the back thing. But, after the defeat at the end. The entire ending of the book, about ten percent or so, so a decent chunk, was about their budding relationship, and proposal and marriage, and then naming their firstborn after his brother, and, for me, the book was well and over when the demon was defeated.

The only way to describe the last quarter of this book, excluding the killing of the demon, was that the author secretly wanted this to be a love story and used every bit of page time they could squeeze it into to do this. I honestly didn’t read any of it.

And I’m still trying to wrap my head around how their parents could have a farm that makes enough money to send to kids to school needed them to quit schooling to run it. If it made that much money surely while Roarke and his brother are running it it is still making the same cash plus more since they dropped out of school and are no longer pouring funds into that.

This story was well written. Entertaining. Checked all the boxes but, unfortunately, had a few plot choices that didn’t sit well with me. How the demon deals with Gedran, and how he can clearly take out our heroes without breaking a sweat but doesn’t and allows them in his house to destroy him. How the insta-love bulldozed its way into the story and then became the entire focus of the story. And a female lead who is clearly awesome still somehow ending up in the need to be protected role and relegated to perfect timing to keep our hero alive. All of these things, plus a few other little quirks, took away from the overall enjoyment of this otherwise expertly crafted story. That’s it really, a few odd choices changed the tone of this book drastically enough to derail the connection that I could’ve and thought I would’ve had with this story.

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