“Book Review: Shadow Dance”
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
It’s action. It’s drama. It’s a page-turning fantasy that questions causality and intention.
Shadow Dance is an action fantasy novel told in the form of journal entries. The second book in its series, Shadow Dance works as a standalone story, throwing its new readers into the thick of the action and giving us what we need to fall under the narrative’s spell later on.
A. E. Pennymaker delightfully balances action, adventure, and romance in this one. The story follows Brenorra Warring as she begins her quest to find her father’s final binder, but this task proves itself to be much more complex when her research brings her down a rabbit hole of an elaborate trafficking scheme.
To infiltrate this high-stakes “shadow dance,” Bren must navigate the throes of formal femininity while keeping up with her deathly combatant training. But in between table-manners and gun-shooting practice, Bren discovers that there’s a traitor in her midst. And soon, we’ll be embarking on a journey that shows us just how appearances might not be what they seem—and that “traitor” could be a fickle descriptor.
Tensions are high between Bren (the sanguine and hopeful trainee) and Arramy (the hardened commander). Unrequited love whispers its way through their storyline, and it feels real and organic. Instead of relying on destiny, this love is built on time spent together, on connection, on something we can feel on the page. We follow Bren as she navigates this environment of learning to love and fearing to trust.
Each chapter begins with a dated journal entry from Bren. This gives the book an intimate feel that draws me close to her and reminds me of just how real she is. Because of its epistolary nature, I feel comfortable reading past details that are not quite so clear to understand because a real person’s journal would also present itself in that same way. Those unknown comments actually work to the book’s advantage sometimes because it feels like I’m reading over her shoulder, and if I pay close enough attention, maybe I can piece together something all the more intriguing.
A. E. Pennymaker’s Shadow Dance is a great novel for both fantasy lovers and those wanting to dive headfirst into some action. Though the novel can be confusing at times as a standalone story, all of the sentiments and excitements still come through crystal clear and help me feeling satisfied when I close the final page. I would recommend this book to young adult readers looking to dive into a story that shows how people are not linear and that intentions often don’t give us the results we expect.
Category: Fantasy / Action
Print length: 295 pages
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