Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

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The Shadow Society
Marie Rutkoski
Publication date: October 16th 2012
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

 *A copy was provided by Macmillan for review purposes*

The Shadow Society begins on a very clichéd note: hot new guy who our protagonist is immediately attracted to, who invades all her thoughts, and seems to be enchanted by her–the plain Jane. Let’s just say I did not have high hopes after this. But fortunately, and as a big relief, things turn around quite drastically once we get over this beginning slump. This is when we find ourselves into a very intriguing and unique premise involving alternate dimensions.

Alternate dimensions are not something I have often come upon in YA, I love the concept, it’s brimming with endless possibilities. This is what I enjoyed the most in this novel. The concept is well done, there are some holes–mostly grey areas–but I found it quite fascinating overall. The explanation that caused the dimensional divide is both scary and thought provoking, and the differences between the two are as vast as I like to imagine they would be–butterfly effect and all. Furthermore, Marie created this new world with a lot of details and cinematic descriptions that had me easily portraying this alternate Chicago. It’s beautiful and dangerous. The notion of shades is so very neat as well–how they live, what they can do, how they’re considered evil and a thing to fear. Being able to disappear… who hasn’t thought of that at least once? After gaining this knowledge about this world so unlike our own, we get an explanation for the stale beginning which gets us to understand Conn’s initial attitude towards Darcy, changing my opinion of it all for the better.

The story follows Darcy quite closely, there are some secondary characters, but other than the two love interests that forms our cliché triangle (we couldn’t get away from them all), there aren’t a whole lot of secondary character interaction–which is a shame because the ones we do meet briefly are a memorable bunch. At least, Darcy leads the show very well. I liked her personality. She’s flawed, and she makes mistakes, but she’s not oblivious to them. Her relationship with Conn is actually built, not born from passion and lust. This is partly due to Conn himself. I was never too sure where he stood. His character is intricate; he wants to be loyal and true, but to whom? Him being any kind of relationship with a shade is a definite unusual and strongly frowned upon idea, seeing as they’re the enemy race. Although there wasn’t a strong “forbidden love” tone I usually like from these romances, I thought their relationship growth was realistic, and perfectly combined with an obvious connection.

After the not so exciting beginning, I’m happy to have found the book well paced. There is a ton going on once they arrive in the alternate world, from spying, to learning newly discovered ghosting abilities, to researching forgotten past; I was kept thoroughly entertained. The anti-climatic ending was a tad disappointing, though. The resolve was too easy for my taste, with some conveniences that were a little… implausible.

It’s not a perfect novel, but not one I would pass up either. I think my biggest problem lies in both extremities: the beginning and ending, which is where I often find is the most important to compel the reader. However, the originality of it alone is well worth it.

3 Hot Espressos
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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25 Responses to “Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski”

  1. Aylee

    Ooh, I LOVE alternate universe stories – Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris was a very good alt dimension read, as well. SO intriguing! They can be tricky though because if the author is not careful in setting it up, you can usually find a ton of plot holes. But this one seems pretty good overall, despite some flaws. I think I’ll mark this one as a “maybe” to read, if I can find the time! Thanks, Giselle!

  2. Amy

    This one sounded interesting, but not enough to make me want to read it. I love the idea of the alternate dimensions though. It seems like there are a lot of flaws in the book, but that overall it was enjoyable enough. Great review doll!!

  3. Jenn Renee

    I have been reluctant of this one. I am glad to hear that some of the book is original not to cliche. It is really hard to find books in ya that doesn’t have the same characters just different place and time. I agree with you the beginning and the end is what seems to leave the lasting imprint. I will for sure check this out when I get a chance. thanks for the great review!

  4. Sam

    Cliched starts can make or break a book for me. Once I’ve decided it’s going to be awful, the rest of the book needs to work really hard to convince me it won’t be. 😀 I haven’t yet come across many 4 or 5 stars reviews for this. Most people seem to be rating it 3 stars or less… I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to reading it now actually.

  5. Ali @ Ginger-read

    I just read another review of this one that said there were some slow parts, now I see there is the immediate obsessing over a guy AND a love triangle…. Hmmmm… I’ll have to think about this one. It sounds like an interesting read though!

  6. Soma Rostam

    Oh, I LOVE the cover of this book.
    The colors really blend together and the reflection is beautiful. The blurb is very captivating, too.
    Though, I really don’t like love triangles. I find them useless, stupid, and unbelievable. They have never happened to me, or anyone I know, so it’s strange.
    I LOVE original world-building, too. I love descriptions, but only when they are not too much.
    I will definitely add this book to my TBR.
    GREAT review, Giselle
    Your constant reader,
    P.S. How come you didn’t rate this one?

  7. Alexa

    I love the fact that it’s about an alternate dimension! The thoughts and possibilities when it comes to this idea are endless, and I do wish it were tackled more often in YA.

  8. Danny

    So glad you liked it!! I found it unique and a great read. I get your points about the beginning I was having problems too, but once I was fully “in” the story I loved it! 🙂

  9. Christina

    Bahaha, you know what’s funny? Alternate dimensions totally weren’t something I came across a lot in YA, but in the last month or so, I’ve read 5 or 6. So weird how that happens. I’d also never read a book about a valkyrie and then read two at once. O_o

    I may try this one eventually, but I’m not going to run for it, since it seems to be a 3.5 at best from all of you with pretty similar taste.

    That beginning does sound awful. But at least it was overcome!

  10. Millie

    Awww, BUMMER. And to think I was beginning to see less love triangles in YA. The book certainly sounds pretty interesting, for sure. Alternate dimensions! That’s new!
    Great review! Love how critical you are ;D

    Millie @ Millie D’s Words

  11. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Uhg–plain Jane + hot guy! Tired cliche (though us plain Janes do love the idea of the hot guy having only eyes for us so I can completely understand). Wasn’t so sure about this one but…meh. Plus, I like a satisfying ending so I think I’d be upset.

  12. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    I haven’t come upon too many alternate dimension stories either, though I will admit that I do have a hard time wrapping my head around such ideas. Dude, have you seen Donnie Darko? Talk about epic mindf**k. Anyway, it’s too bad there wasn’t more secondary characters taking the stage in this one. I find that great secondary characters can really propel the story to another level, memorable characters are the best.

  13. Renae

    Definitely agree that the alternate dimension idea is fascinating (and not used enough). I’ve only seen it before in Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. And while I’m sorry to hear that the beginning isn’t the best, it great to know it doesn’t stay that way for the duration of the novel.

  14. Mel - Thedailyprophecy.

    I’m glad that it became much better after the disappointing beginning 🙂 Shame that the ending wasn’t so good either.. Darcy sounds lovely, even when I hate the fact that there is – again – a love triangle.

    I want my book to have more consistency. The alternate dimensions is a great concept, but I’m not sure if I’m still so tempted to try this one.

  15. Megan K.

    THE SHADOW SOCIETY definitely isn’t a perfect novel, but I agree that it was really original! I didn’t like Conn as much as I would’ve liked to, though, and Darcy was just an okay MC for me.

    Either way, awesome review! I totally agree with everything you said, Giselle!

  16. Lauren M

    I’ve seen quite a few reviews that say similar things; that The Shadow Society just didn’t completely work. I love alternate universe stories, though, so maybe I’ll enjoy it? Haha. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Giselle.

  17. Maji Bookshelf

    Hmm.. Juhina really hated the ending as well, so i can see why you didn’t enjoy it either. As for the beginning, i really don’t like the sound of that immediate attractiveness.. kind of like instalove. Great review Giselle!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf