Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Review: The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand

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I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Year of Shadows by Claire LegrandThe Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand
Published by Simon & Schuster BfYR on August 27th 2013
Genres: MG, Paranormal
Source: Simon & Schuster
Buy on Amazon

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

A delightful, yet dark MG novel; The Year of Shadows is dusted with ghosts, entertaining personalities, and an unexpected amount of grave topics which are handled with complete expertise, all through the delicate eyes of a child who is harboring a mountain of pain.

This book is about a young girl, Olivia, who has had to move into this battered concert hall where her father works due to the stupid Economy. Fostering anger towards both her father for bringing her to this dank place, and her mother for leaving without saying goodbye, she’s tuning everyone out to concentrate on the one thing she loves: drawing. Then the ghosts show up. From abandonment to loneliness to grief, Olivia’s heart became my own when I was reading her story; the heavy burden of her sadness is palpable. She’s feeling so much bitterness towards life that it’s affecting how her peers see her at school – mostly as a freak and a loner – as well as how she reacts to others, even when they show kindness. Consequently, we get a character who’s indignant, yet easy to care for; it makes her situation even more saddening – a situation that holds threads of familiarity for many, unfortunately. She does acquire a support system, however. Her friends Henry and Joan who are both quirky – Joan especially, – as well as a hilariously witty cat by the name of Igor, then we can’t forget the ghosts we meet throughout with their own stories and endearing charm. A memorable cast like this is just what I hope to get inside an MG novel.

This plot revolves around two major aspects. One is the hardship of Olivia’s situation including wondering why her mother abandoned her, for which she blames her father and the orchestra. The other revolves around the ghosts who need help finding their anchor to our world so they can finally deal and move on, an ordeal with which Olivia and Henry agree to help. This process is actually pretty dark overall. It involves them letting the ghosts use their minds and bodies to relive their deaths which can be pretty brutal. The first experiment was the least glossed over when we’re brought into an ugly murder scene, this is where we get to see the mental and physical effects of this ordeal on Olivia and Henry. It was actually fascinating in a way and very well imagined, too – same as with the description of the ghosts – for which I commend the author. Most of the other deaths were mainly referenced, leaving it to our imagination with a brief depiction, but the atmosphere was set. While this is all happening, Olivia is dealing with the aforementioned harsh topics of this novel. It’s a story with a lot of intersections, leaving little room to lose any steam; even so, I did find it bordered on the long side. Also, if you’re debating, get a print copy as it has lovely imagery throughout that an ebook (especially the e-ARC) couldn’t do justice.

It’s a novel full of magic, mystery, life, and family. If you enjoy MG novels with a dark vibe that manages to be both sad and beautiful, this is one you should put on your list!


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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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26 Responses to “Review: The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m not too big on MG novels because for the most part I have trouble connecting to the story, but this one sounds like it’s wonderfully written, Giselle.
    I like that it’s more than just an entertaining read and tackles a lot of important issues and ultimately teach something to the reader.
    Lovely review, Giselle! I’m happy you enjoyed this so much.

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    First off, love the cover. Second, this sounds really good! I don’t know about letting ghosts use my body to relive their deaths…sounds a little painful and not fun.

  3. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    I’ve heard great things about this book so far and I’m happy you liked it so much! I always like to read a MG now and then. This book is a mixture of some of my favorite things πŸ™‚

  4. Sara (of The Page Sage)

    Claire LeGrand’s books both sound so good- I’ve had her debut novel in my TBR pile since December and have been dying to have the time to read it. YEAR OF SHADOWS sounds so atmospheric and creative. I’ll just have to add this one to the TBR list, too!

  5. Molli

    Both sad AND beautiful? I know this one is already on my TBR but this is such a nice, thorough review of it that now I REALLY want to read it, Giselle. I’ve heard such great things about the author!

  6. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    You know, I don’t read a lot of MG, but I’ve seen this one around a lot, and everyone seems to have nothing but praise for it. I love the sound of the ghosts (the imagined horrors and experiments) and the cast of characters, plus how well this book seems to address deeper issues of grief and human connection. Despite how she acts with the other kids and how she mistrusts kindness, Olivia already seems like the kind of heroine I’d root for. Plus, her expression on the cover :). Fantastic.

  7. kimbacaffeinate

    This sounds delightful and I love the cover. Adding to my Christmas shopping list, I have a niece who would gobble this up and it sounds like it has wonderful elements mixed with magic πŸ™‚ thanks Giselle

  8. Jenni

    Man, this one sounds so good. I am so sad that I got denied for it. I love how dark it sounds and I always love a MG novel with that extra bit of substance to get you really invested in it.

  9. Eileen @ ***Singing and Reading in the Rain***

    This one sounds like a fantastic MG novel, especially considering the fact that Olivia was such a sympathetic character and that you really felt her sadness and how bad her situation was. Just reading your review I can tell how dark this one is, which definitely has me intrigued πŸ™‚ Also the ghost idea and their description sounds so well-done, I definitely want to read this one soon! πŸ˜€

    Fantastic review, Giselle!

  10. ShootingStarsMag

    Sounds great. I keep telling myself to read more MG, but I don’t want anything that’s too young (most days). This sounds like the perfect book to pick up for someone like me. πŸ™‚

  11. Faye @ The Social Potato

    Goodness me, this sounds so engaging. I don’t know why but a lot of MG novels these days are really really good. At least the ones I’ve seen were much better than the YA ones I’ve read. I can’t wait to get to this one, and soon!

  12. Lena Marsteller

    I really enjoyed The Cavendish Home for Girls and Boys by Claire Legrand, so I am looking forward to this book. I did not know anything about the ghosts using Olivia and Henry to relive their murders… I’m interested to see where it goes.
    P.S. I hope its not too sad…

  13. Lauren

    I love Claire Legrand, and I was already planning on reading this, but now I’m super excited to get my hands on it! Olivia and her friends sound wonderful, and how could I resist a hilariously witty cat? πŸ™‚ I’ll have to get the hard copy now so I don’t miss out on the illustrations. Amazing review!

  14. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows

    Oooh this was my WoW pick a few weeks ago and reading your review has made me want it even more πŸ˜€ I love how you described everything from the MC to the plot and to the tough topics at hand, especially for an MG read! It sounds like I book I would absolutely love β™₯ Thanks Giselle, SO happy you loved this one!