YA Weekend Audio: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (February 25, 2020)
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. No pretenses, limited drama, just plain good fun with a generous helping of romance. And of course, a wildly entertaining heroine didn’t hurt.
At the heart of The Shadows Between Us is a fairy tale as old as time—a girl hopes to catch the eye of the king, marry him and become his queen. But instead of living happily ever after, here the girl actually has vicious designs to murder the king and steal his kingdom. Let’s be clear: Alessandra is not a nice person. She’s never claimed to be. She is highly ambitious and has always made it known that she’s only out for herself, and you can either help her or get the hell out of the way.
Now she’s set her sights on the throne itself, and the key to getting it is the newly crowned Shadow King. So named because of the tendrils of living shadows that swirl around him, Kallias is a mysterious young man who mostly keeps to himself, but Alessandra believes she knows what he wants. Her plan is to present herself at court and make it impossible for him to resist her charms, and once he makes her his wife, that’s when she will strike.
And for a while, things seemed to be going as planned. Alessandra is confident that she has Kallias’ attention, and he’s shown his interest by officially making their courtship public. But then came the assassination attempt on his life, and Alessandra is outraged. Someone is trying to kill the king before she can get him to marry her, how dare they! Unexpectedly, Alessandra as Kallias’ would-be killer now finds herself doing everything she can to keep him alive, becoming his most loyal protector, and the irony is not lost on her.
First, let’s talk about Alessandra. She’s completely full of herself, and I love it! I’m sick and tired of heroines in YA who act all coy and demure, who are all full of false modesty. For one thing, they’re not fooling anyone. To have someone like Alessandra, who owns her egotism and her thirst for ambition, is like a breath of fresh air. She’s also got a voracious sexual appetite and isn’t ashamed to admit it, though she does ensure she gets plenty of dirt on her lovers just in case they decide to turn on her. This is one smart, ruthless cookie you won’t want to mess with, and you definitely won’t want to get between her and what she wants.
And yet, in spite of all her flaws, Alessandra is incredibly likable. And really, she’s not all bad. As her relationship with Kallias deepens, she realizes that she does in fact care for him, and goes on to prove that there are other things she cares about other than herself. It’s safe to say she carried the book for me, through the sheer force of her personality. Quite honestly, while I enjoyed the story, world-building and other characters, those aspects weren’t anything too special. In fact, I think in many ways Kallias was overshadowed by Alessandra—not because he wasn’t a good character or that he wasn’t well-written, but simply because everything just tends to fade to the background when compared to our fiery protagonist (okay, with maybe the exception of Demodocus, but who doesn’t love that big adorable furball?) In addition, Alessandra was what made the love story arc not only tolerable but actually enjoyable, and that’s a big deal considering how picky I am about how romances are handled in YA.
But at the end of the day, The Shadows Between Us was simply a straight-up fun and energizing read, headed by a truly memorable and ferociously indomitable heroine. I was almost disappointed to find out this was a standalone, by the way the ending wrapped up so neatly, because I most certainly wouldn’t have minded another book with Alessandra. The story itself was a bit predictable, but that’s not to say it didn’t have its moments, and there were also a few surprises. It held my attention from beginning to end, and I was sorry to say goodbye. Without a doubt, Tricia Levenseller will be an author I’ll remember, and I’ll be watching for what she writes next.
Audiobook Comments: I’m a huge fan of Caitlin Davies, and in my opinion, they couldn’t have chosen a better narrator for The Shadows Between Us because of the way she flawlessly channeled Alessandra’s attitude. Her reading was spot on and pitch perfect, and I don’t think this book would have been nearly as good had someone else been narrating. Fantastic performance, and highly recommended.