Friday, August 9, 2013

Lurking In The Shadows

Expected Publication:  September 26th, 2013
By: Robin McKinley
Nancy Paulsen Books
ISBN-13:  9780399165795
Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

     It's Maggie's Senior Year of high school and she's determined to enjoy herself.  But with an extremely creepy new Stepfather who seems to be covered in shadows and may or may not be an illegal magician, Maggie is seriously stressed out.  When strange things begin happening and Maggie is drawn into them against her will, can she keep herself and her family safe?  Also, just what dangerous secrets have her friends been keeping from her.  And is magic really gone from her genes, or is Maggie more special than she ever imagined?
     I am a fan of Robin McKinley, but I like her best when she is writing high fantasy books such as her Damar novels The Blue Sword and The Hero and The CrownThat said, I was excited to be able to read a new novel by her that sounded like a foray into contemporary magic.  This book was far more of an odd cross between science and the most tantalizing hints of magic that McKinley could write, without actually giving us the full-fledged kind I long for as a reader!  I disliked the way I was thrown into the odd terminology that McKinley seemed to have created from thin air.  I'm still not quite sure what cobeys and silverbugs are even a few days after I've finished reading the book.  I felt consistently lost and annoyed at the sink or swim feel of the world-building.  Things did get better as the book progressed, but I had some feelings of confusion up to the very end.  The differences between the different lands (Oldworld = magic, Newworld = science) were interesting and the choice to make one scientific governmentally and the other magical was intriguing.  It built the conflict for the majority of the book, but it wasn't a very active conflict until close to the ending.  Mostly the novel's conflict centers around Maggie and her much misunderstood Stepfather Val for a good portion, until the shit really starts to hit the fan when Maggie shows unexpected talents (won't say anything further on it!).   
     I think the strongest thing about this novel was the characters.  I really did not like Maggie all that much.  Yes, she was a strong protagonist.  But her colloquialisms (she said 'critters' instead of 'animals' and it made me want to axe-murder her so hard) got on my nerves and the innocence, bordering on downright stupidity of her mindset made me want to dropkick her a few times.  Her relationships with her best friends Jill and Takahiro were what saved her for me.  They were each strong, fleshed out characters on their own (Taks especially) and I enjoyed watching them come into their own.  Also the family dynamic between Maggie, her Mom, Val and her brother Ran was so realistic it made me cringe at some points in sympathy.  All of Maggie's animals also have distinctive personalities and my favorite in particular was a mysterious creature called Hix (untraditional to say the least).  The addition of origami as an important plot device was interesting and entirely unique.  I feel like all the action in this book happened in the last 75 pages or so and that didn't help me to enjoy it any more, as I already felt like it dragged and got confusing/boring for a fair bit.  The way it ended was decent in terms of wrapping up the main plots, but it still left things wide open for a sequel.  Especially in the case of Casimir, who is an afterthought of a character who only seems to exist as a romantic interest for Maggie and later on, Jill.  I would be interested in knowing his backstory which was pretty vague.  All in all, not one of my favorite reads of the year but I appreciate it's strength in characterization and ability to confuse the heck out of me!  I would recommend for fans of her more intricately detailed works, such as Pegasus and Sunshine.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication is September 26th, 2013.*

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