Publisher: Atheneum Books
Format: Hardcover, 429 pages
Description from the dust jacket:
Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dreamworld – a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by nightmares of Varen’s creation, is the only one who can save him.
Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning hours of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the “Poe Toaster” will make his annual homage at the legendary poet’s grave.
Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But great dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen’s affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent.
Could Isobel’s greatest love also be her greatest adversary?
The following review is based on a copy I purchased myself.
Do not read if you haven't read Nevermore and don't want to be spoiled!!!
Review (no spoilers):
I have waited for this book for more than a year, with big expectations and not a little fear for what the novel would hold in store for Isobel and Varen – I was not disappointed on any of those accounts. Trying to review Enshadowed is difficult for me because there is just no way I can do this book justice. Anything I say will be bland compared to the experience of reading it. It made me laugh, it surprised me, it scared me, intrigued me, and it left me in pieces – as it well should.
The ending of Nevermore left Isobel in the real world while Varen was a captive in the dreamworld he helped create. Enshadowed picks up a few weeks later. Isobel has still not found a way to reach Varen but is trying to convince her parents to take her to Baltimore for a ‘university trip’ so that she can then sneak off and intercept Reynolds, aka the Poe Toaster, at Poe’s grave and make him take her to Varen. Meanwhile, she is under a lot of strain because the police, her teacher Mr Swanson, and basically the entire student body think that she has at least an idea about where Varen went. Isobel feels terrible for leaving him behind, even though she was tricked by Reynolds into doing it, and she is hell-bent of finding him and bringing him back no matter what.
However, there are signs of Varen reaching out to her in her dreams and Isobel is finding it harder and harder to distinguish between waking and sleeping, between what is real and what should not be real. Pinfeathers, one of the Nocs created by Varen, is haunting her both in he dreams and in the real world. I never thought I’d say this but I grew to love Pinfeathers. In Nevermore, he plain scared me (though during the re-read I learned to appreciate his sense of humor) but the Pinfeathers in Enshadowed is changed, and Isobel can no longer be sure about who is friend and who is foe. The connection between Pinfeathers and Varen is one I found very fascinating, as are the parallels between Varen and Poe and their relations to the dreamworld and to the veiled female figure who lured them there and whom I cannot really talk about without spoilers.
Isobel is a very strong heroine, refusing to give up even as everyone around her, in the know or not, tells her to turn her back on Varen and get on with her life, lies to her, or otherwise tries to hinder her. Comparing her to the spoilt cheerleader she was at the beginning of Nevermore, she has undergone incredible growth! And she does not wallow in self-pity, even though she has reason enough to do it.
Also the minor characters gain a lot more depth in the sequel: Isobel’s family plays an important role, we get to know Gwen better and there is also some light shed on Varen’s parents and his past in general. I’m still not sure I have figured out how it’s all connected but I have theories ;) Kelly Creagh definitely keeps the reader guessing, and I loved that!
Of course what I loved most of all was the wonderful, rich and lyrical prose. Not once does Creagh resort to a clichéd description; instead, she comes up with wonderful new similes and metaphors that fit her story perfectly. She creates moods and scenes that will pull the reader right into the story, at her mercy to be awed or terrified. Poe’s writing is a phantom haunting the story, woven through it in an unobtrusive yet recognizable way to those who know his stories and poetry. And it’s not just random phrases, quotes or allusions – it’s the deeper themes, the places, the names… I could write an essay just on intertextuality in this series.
All in all, this is a wonderfully crafted, dark read full of mystery and its very own brand of magic, both in the story and in the words Creagh uses to tell it. It will make you laugh and cry and shake your fist at the injustice of the world, and like the notes of a certain lullaby, it will haunt your mind for a long time to come.
I could rhapsodize on forevermore but this is a novel you just have to read for yourself to feel its full effect. I can’t wait for the conclusion of this trilogy!
P.S.: And yet I feel I should ramble on because this is too short to possibly do the story justice… maybe I’ll edit it at a later point. My brain is still too bedazzled but I had to get this on the page while still ‘under the influence’, so to speak.
Have you read Enshadowed? What were your thoughts? Predictions? Fears? Favorite bits? Let me know in the comments :)