Shield of Shadows by Sydney Mann is an entertaining fantasy adventure full of mystery and magical intrigue. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written tale which engulfed me in a sense of wonder early on. I was especially drawn to the fantastical and well-constructed world where a simple walk in the forest could turn life threatening in an instant. I regularly felt a subtle tension while traversing the forbidden forest of Drakken where many enter but few leave. There is a wide cast of interesting characters with relatable beliefs and motivations and I enjoyed seeing their interaction with the protagonist.
The story follows Cara, a girl who must hide her face from the outside world. When Cara's family is murdered by soldiers of the king, she flees into the forbidden woods of Drakken only to find considerably more danger awaiting her. As Cara negotiates these perils, she encounters a variety of people and creatures; the foremost of which being the gypsies who are the Guardians of Drakken. As Cara interacts with these people, she learns more about the secret history of her world as well as her place in it.
The fantasy lover in me really appreciated the interesting and deadly creatures of Drakken that felt familiar, yet unique to the story. I also loved the deep lore of this fleshed out world. Action scenes are expertly crafted making for decidedly tense and fast-paced moments. There were also some great twists and satisfying reveals that I won't spoil here. While I really enjoyed this book, there were a few items I noticed. Cara is a strong and competent character, but I felt as if she was more of a passenger in her own story. She seemed to lack agency throughout the story with the exception of a few key points. I was also a bit thrown off by the overall structure of the story as I wasn't certain what the narrative was driving toward. This didn't hinder my enjoyment of the overall story however and I would recommend this to fans of epic fantasy.
8 out of 10
Shield of Shadows by Sydney Mann is an exciting fantasy adventure set in an imaginative world with a deep lore. The characters are interesting, the action is tense, and the creatures that inhabit Drakken are as intriguing as they are frightening. I feel like there is a lot of setup for a much larger narrative and I'm excited to see where the story goes.
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