Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.
Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.
As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .
In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense.
The following review is based on an ARC provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Wow. Even though it took me forever to actually write the review for this one, it was hands down one of my favorites that I’ve read all year! It was witty. It was dark at times, and twisted. But it was also great fun when Darcy was bantering with her friends. This book broke my heart, then mended it. The writing is outstanding It was just overall amazing!
Our heroine Darcy was found in front of the Chicago firehouse one day without any memories of her previous life. After being shipped off from foster family to foster family and acquiring a record for violence (for stopping one of her foster ‘fathers’ from beating up one of the other kids), she finally has a home with a foster mother she actually likes and gets along with. She’s starting the new school year at the same high school she was previously at. She’s got friends, who are by the way totally awesome. She’s not part of the ‘in’ crowd but of the more artsy and nerdy kids, but all in all life is going well, considering.
Enter Conn, the new guy. At first he looks at her as if she was the enemy. Then he singles her out of everyone popular who tries to get close to him to work on a project, and they grow closer. At lot. Oh how I loved the tension and chemistry between them, even though we know from the summary that he’s not being quite upfront with Darcy! I’m not gonna say what his betrayal is exactly, but it has Darcy questioning her sanity and figuring out that she is not only not who she thought she was, but not even what she thought she was.
In the ‘other’ Chicago of the world mentioned in the summary (I feel like such a spoilery person but it’s really all there already) she can’t trust anybody. Not Conn, not her own species, no one. New alliances, new betrayals, terrible secrets… there’s a considerable dystopian element in that part of the novel. The world building was brilliant! Incredibly imaginative and unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s not superficial but really thought through, and all the elements of that world make sense and fit together really well.
The paranormal element, too, was very refreshing and Darcy’s abilities were pretty damn awesome! She had to go through so much and proved to be a real fighter and a strong heroine! But she was also vulnerable. Conn really hurt her. Seeing the two of them trying to salvage the scraps of what was left of their bond after finding out about each other’s true identities kept me turning the pages. It was wonderfully written, raw and really believable. It took the right amount of time. None of the book was rushed even though lots of things happen, and the ending was perfect.
I can’t really say too much more without being very spoilery, but there are a few more things I’d like to mention. One is Darcy’s relation to art. I really loved how it wasn’t just something that was added to her character profile to make her more likeable or whatever, it was something ingrained into her very identity. It was part of who she was and how she (and since the story is written form her POV also the reader) looked at the world. She described things with an artist’s eye.
Another thing was the way this book worked with T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. When it first came up I just thought ‘Oh cool, she put Prufrock into the book! Awesome, one of my absolute favorites!’ but it was much more than just a fleeting reference. The poem is like a red thread leading through the book, and I loved to see how the meaning it has for Darcy and Conn (and also for me!) changes over time. It was brilliantly done!
Time to wrap this up. Drop-dead gorgeous, at times lyrical writing, amazing characters, romance (yes, it’s there. At times it’s also pretty hot!), friendship, betrayal, all fueled into a great story with solid worldbuilding and great imagination! This is a standalone and the ending is well rounded and just… wonderful. It’s not a cliché HEA, it’s just the perfect ending for the story and it let me close the book fully satisfied. Rutkoski’s words still linger though, and I have loads of marked passages on my kindle. I’m definitely buying a copy of this one once it’s out on paperback because I will want to re-read it.
So if you’re into paranormal or dystopian and want something truly new that hasn’t been done over and over, you really should give this one a try!
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Have you read The Shadow Society? Did you love it as much as I did, or did it not quite strike the same cord? I'd love to hear what you thought of my review.