Son of the Shadows - Juliet Marillier I devoured this book. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop, and I finished the book in about fifteen hours with breaks in between. It made me wonder why it took me so long to read this second installment to the Sevenwaters series, though the answer came to me pretty quickly as I was reading. To explain why this is, I have to start off with my experience with the first book.

The first book, Daughter of the Forest, was an emotional journey. It was a tale about family, sacrifice, suffering, violence, and strength. It was about pushing the very limits of endurance, almost to the breaking point, until when all I wanted was to hold my hands up in defeat for Sorcha and ask wearily for the easy way out, even knowing that the alternative was to lose everything. But even for all that, the tale was beautiful, magical, and romantic. The book affected me deeply and twisted my emotions so that I needed some breathing time to unwind before diving headfirst into another Sevenwaters book.

Only recently did I buck up and decide that it was time to pick up the second installment. I was expecting more epic feats of human endurance, something that would twist and overturn my heart. I was, perhaps misguidedly, expecting another Daughter of the Forest.

But it was not to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed Son of the Shadows. It was very well written, and the plot was interesting. It was a strong follow-up to the first, and I was more than pleasantly surprised at the paths it took.

However, if the first book is the ocean during a torrential storm, this book is more like a calm lake during an autumn drizzle. Liadan, the main character, is the model protagonist. Perfect, but not to the point of being annoying. She is the heart of Sevenwaters, repeated several times verbatim in the book. She is strong, loyal, fair-minded, and wise beyond her years. She’s a character that doesn’t require much development because she’s already very developed from the beginning. Bran, Liadan's foil, is similar. He is a haunted man, but aside from his past, you can tell he’s an otherwise perfect male lead. He’s someone who clearly requires the healing skills of Liadan to mend that gaping gap of “imperfect” before he can become a worthy companion to Liadan. It was fun reading about the two because, despite their difficulties, I already knew in the back of my mind, that they would come through somehow. I suspect this is why I got through this book so quickly.

Also, it was easier for me to orient myself emotionally in this novel. One of the main themes was authority. Women were much more susceptible to the whims of men, both in politics and the family unit. So were young children victim to the whims of adults. While this is a fair issue to explore, it was a constricting setup and somewhat at odds with the other theme of “deciding one’s own destiny.” Liadan’s birth, after all, was not foreseen, and thus she is an anomaly, someone who can change things, whatever that means. But the constant mention and examples of women being subject to the desires of men became obvious very fast. In short, authority = bad (most of the time); finding one's own path = good.

The romance was also pretty direct. The attraction between Liadan and Bran is prevalent as soon as they meet gazes. They were much more physical than Sorcha and Red, which was a refreshing change, but they also faced less hardships. The depth of emotion between the two, while strong, did not reach the shadowy depths of Sorcha’s and Red’s. I still enjoyed reading about Liadan and Bran, though their relationship was not as memorable as their predecessors’.

In sum, this book lacked the subtlety and depth of the first, but considering all other factors, it was still a very good story. The writing is strong, the characters are strong (albeit a little too perfect or a little too flawed), and the story itself is strong. I found that this book read more like a historical romance novel but with more spirit, less bodice ripping, and much more of a gripping storyline. Some of the reveals towards the end of the book, especially Niamh’s and Ciaran’s, are definitely WTF-worthy.

Overall, a SOLID 4 STARS.

Definitely buying the third book asap.