Shadow Weaver, by MarcyKate Connolly, a fantasy for middle-grade readers that reads like a deliciously dark fairytale. Spinning a web around her readers just as protagonist Emmeline crafts her shadows, Connolly has created a world where darkness shines and light is hidden, along with secrets that make the truth hard to distinguish from lies. At the heart of this tale is Emmeline’s ever-evolving sense of self and her connections, both good and bad, with others.
Emmeline lives in a castle that is remote; her parents have hidden her from society because of her special talent: shadow weaving. We meet her where she has alway felt most at home, in the woods, playing with her shadow, Dar. Dar has long been Emmeline’s best – and nearly only – friend. But when visitors come to the castle promising Emmeline’s parents a “cure” for her talent, that friendship is threatened. Rather than be sent away, Dar convinces Emmeline to run away into the woods. But what they find in the woods is more than the comforting darkness. They find that there is light there, too, and Emmeline begins to doubt whether everything Dar has told her is the truth. But her love and loyalty for her best shadow friend is strong, and guides her towards a decision that will change everything.
The strengths of this story are many, with characters whose voices are strong or gentle, soft or harsh, immediately recognizable for their goodness or their flaws. Readers are challenged to question whom or what they believe, and friendship is tested in this fantasy just as it is in real life. Goodness and light are combined with evil and darkness in a way that make both equally compelling, and there are times when the language of each have the beauty of poetry.
Shadow Weaver is the first book in a duology, and the ending promises that Emmeline’s journey will continue. With gorgeous prose, characters sparkling with life and deliciously dark adventure sprinkled with light, I inhaled this story in what felt like a single breath. For fans of fantasy and dark fairytales (whether kids or big kids like myself) this tale is a must read. Read it on a dark night under the stars, and I promise you’ll shiver with fear and delight.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Official publishing date Jan. 1, 2018. Review also posted on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2103747371
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