Title: The Shadow Kingdom (The Shadow Curse #1)
Author: C.J Inkson
Genre: Fiction/ Romance/ YA/ Fantasy
Favourite Quote: ‘Eli squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them. Her vision wasn’t behaving right – the world wasn’t coming back into focus like it should. At first she couldn’t place what was wrong. Was it too bright? No, it was night. Too dark? Not that either; she could see with the firelight. And then it dawned on her in a sickening wave that stole the air from her lungs and left her gasping – there was no colour. Nothing. Everything was in shades of black and white. The fire, the tents, the trees, the ground.. all colourless. She was in the Shadow Lands.’
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Elliot West has grown up knowing that she has no choice in her future, she knows who she is and her purpose in life. For generations her family have lived at the watchtower in Sheltley, their prime objective never changing; to keep watch over the endless tides for signs that the Shadow may cross the sea over the borders of Barrier Strait. The Shadow appeared in the Kingdom Tallon across the water hundreds of years ago, a curse that put the entire land into darkness. The residents haven’t seen colour since and have come to accept that it will never be again, lands across the seas forgotten. No one has ever tried to cross the border across the ocean, so after generations, the Shadow Kingdom became legend, a myth, a bedtime story. Even Elliot isn’t sure what to believe, that is, until she is captured by the legendary Lojkin warrior clan from the Shadow Kingdom, a clan who hasn’t lost hope in bringing colour back to their lands, who believe in drinking the blood of a being in colour will restore them once and for all. Elliot was their chosen sacrifice.
‘Eli breathed a heavy sigh as he leapt to his feet and pulled her with him. “Let’s go.”
She steadied herself against him, shaking from lack of food and sleep and rush of adrenalin. “Why are you helping me?” she asked again, persistent. She wanted an answer. She needed an answer, if she was expected to trust him. He stepped away from her when she’d regained her balance, turning towards the back of the tent. “Because I have no other choice.” He pulled the canvas wall apart where he’d somehow sliced through. She didn’t like the answer. It was purposefully vague. But the thought of staying wasn’t an option. So, she followed, bracing herself for whatever came next.’
I really enjoyed this story. It had everything you could want from a fantasy adventure, a driven purpose to travel through unknown magical lands full of wild dangerous clans, mythical beasts as well as beautiful landscapes and mystery around every corner. A strange world cursed into darkness that has kidnapped Elliot in order to bring colour back to the lands, a fantastic storyline that will keep you on your toes.
Eli is the only colourful being in the entire Shadow Kingdom, the Lojkin sought to bring colour back to the lands, as well as a means for the warriors to rule the lands in it’s wakening. You can’t begrudge them for trying, even if it means using Eli as a sacrifice, but as our protagonist in this story, we can’t accept Eli being killed.
Here we meet our dark mysterious saviour, Tren who appears with his shady vague answers and magical tattoos that move around his body, a different being to the ones responsible for her kidnap, but that doesn’t mean she can trust him. For reasons unknown, Tren decides to end his alliance with the Lojkin in order to help Eli escape and assist in taking her home across the sea.
He continues his dark evasive behaviour throughout their journey to keep you suspicious but at the same time, you being to feel something more for our anti hero. He’s determined to keep Eli safe, but why? The small gestures to keep her close and small glances at her will blossom into a romance you can’t decipher. The reader will keep you guessing right until the end, you’ll be desperate to know what happens between them.
Eli is one of those characters that has been thrown into an unknown world and incapable of surviving on her own. You can forgive her attitude at times since she grew up with limited adventures having to remain at the watchtower staring out into the ocean, but there are times you want to shake her silly. She’s determined to get home but allows the terror to consume her. It’s clear she wants to rely on Tren, she wants to trust him but still can’t help the niggling feeling that he’s holding back on something. Is it just his personality, is it that he’s got someone waiting for him at home, or is it that he’s just intent on keeping secrets from her. She tries to prove herself by saving him when she could have walked away and found her own way, but whether it’s because she needs him too much or whether she actually feels something for him you don’t know.
The author does a great job in building up their characters, but I feel like they could have advanced it further since they spent so much time alone together, you still feel like they don’t know each other any better by the end. The additional characters included along the way were well written even if brief, you understood each role and their purpose for Eli, whether it was to use her as a sacrifice, whether it was to keep her for trade or simply to help her along her journey. Each one bringing a new exciting part to their adventure.
”The energy in the room shifted from Tren to her, circling as if she were the eye of a hurricane. Of course, she always saw herself in colour, but somehow seeing the effect on others made her feel powerful, illuminating, and desired. And frightened. The Earl rose and stepped toward her. In the same instant Tren shot to his feet, hands splayed on the table. “Don’t take another step toward her.”
“Or what?” Sjorn hesitated with a mocking smile. Sharply, he turned back to face Tren, but didn’t return to the table. He stood halfway between them. “Some prize you’ve won,” he sneered. “What luck.”
Tren didn’t reply.’
Overall I thought it was a great story opening into The Shadow Curse trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading the next part of the journey to see what happens next!
Elliot West stands vigil as Watchman, on the lookout for signs the Shadow Curse may be spreading across the Barrier Strait to her small northern isle. But in all the centuries since the curse was cast, no one, including Eli, has seen a thing, and even she is beginning to wonder if it’s all some grand hoax. That is, until she’s ambushed by the Lojkin, a warrior clan from the Shadow Kingdom who believe drinking the blood of someone with color will restore their own- stolen generations ago by the Curse.
Against her will, Eli is taken across the sea to the cursed Shadow Kingdom, waiting to be slaughtered as a sacrifice to foreign gods. Just when it seems her death is imminent, a young man with shifting tattoos and a questionable motive, helps her escape, setting them on a dangerous path through strange lands in an attempt to get home.