I'm pretty much crazy about everything I've read that Juliet Marillier has written. This is the sixth book of hers that I've read, and it was just as good as the other five.
My least favorite part about blogging about books, if you must know, is summarizing the plot. I feel like cheating today, so here's the summary from Juliet's own website:
Its name is spoken only in whispers, if the people of Alban dare to
speak it at all: Shadowfell. The training ground for rebels seeking to
free their land from the rule of the tyrannical king is so shrouded in
mystery that most believe it to be a myth.
But for Neryn, Shadowfell’s existence is her only hope. She is alone
and penniless, a fugitive concealing a treacherous magical power that
will warrant her immediate enslavement should it be revealed. She finds
hope of allies in the Good Folk, fey beings whom she must pretend she
cannot see and who taunt her with chatter of prophecies and tests; and
in a mysterious stranger who saves her from certain death but whose
motives remain unclear.
Will Neryn be forced to make the dangerous journey alone? She must
reach Shadowfell, not only to avenge her family and salvage her own
life, but to rescue Alban itself.
Neryn is a powerfully likable main character, and the world of Alban is equal parts tragic, detailed, and absorbing. Flint, the love interest, is full of secrets as dangerous as Neryn's own, and it takes a long time for trust to take hold. But Neryn is smart about it, not dramatic or overly emotional, which I really appreciate in her. Juliet Marillier's writing is beautiful, and her imagination just astounds me. I half-wish I could write a book someday, but I just don't know how people dream up such amazing stories. Ms. Marillier's dreams must be lovely.
Shadowfell gets a tad overly violent in a couple places, which I mostly just let my eyes skim over. But it's a great first novel in what will be, of course, naturally, and obviously, a trilogy. Fantasy books cannot exist alone, after all. It's some kind of unwritten rule that all authors adhere to. So grab it from your library. It's great. Oh, and definitely pick up Wildwood Dancing while you're at it. It's pure loveliness.