Review: The Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest

HER WORLD-ALTERING SECRET CAN’T BE HIDDEN MUCH LONGER

Elloren Gardner hides the most powerful secret in all Erthia—she is the Black Witch of Prophecy, and destined to triumph…or be used as the ultimate weapon of destruction.

Separated from everyone she loves, isolated and hunted, Elloren must turn to the last person she can trust—her fastmate, Commander Lukas Grey. With the Mage forces of Gardneria poised to conquer all of Erthia, Elloren has no choice but to ally with Lukas and combine their power to keep herself out of the hands of Gardnerian leader Marcus Vogel…the holder of the all-consuming Shadow Wand.

With just weeks to train to become a warrior, and no control over her magic, Elloren finds unexpected allies among those under orders to kill her. It’s time to step up. To fight back. And to forge onward through the most devastating loss yet.

This is a third book, I need to get the two books before it, but I like it all the same.  It’s easy to understand the world, even without the world-building that usually comes with a first book.  I did some research and got the gist of the plot of the first two books, which are now on my TBR list! 

So many elements of high fantasy!  Reminds me of Garth Nix, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, and Holly Black.  These are authors with very different writing styles, but I can see elements and influences from each of them in this writing.  And don’t forget dragons!  I’m a sucker for dragons!  It’s a classic heroine rising story with a protagonist still grappling with figuring out her power, aiding the oppressed, being one with nature, and standing up to a regime that threatens all natural life in the world.

In an effort to prevent spoilers for the previous books, this review will focus on the themes, writing quality, and overall impressions of the book/series.  There were some very heavy themes in this book, racism/genocide, but most fantasy novels have a nod to these themes.  It seems like many science fiction/fantasy stories end up with the protagonist fighting against a regime that seeks to oppress their people.  Conflict is natural in these situations, though not always appropriate.  I thought this book dealt with these themes in a respectful and thoughtful way, providing the reader with points to think critically about the fantasy world.  This is rare in fantasy books and I absolutely appreciated it in this narrative!  Allusions to naturalism are prevalent in this book as well. 

The writing and pacing in this book were top-notch.  I didn’t feel lost when trying to remember all of the characters, which is a testament to the skill of the author.  This installment is almost nonstop action, be it fighting, training, fleeing, romantic interactions, and so many more instances that would be spoilery if I mentioned them.  One thing I want to point out is that there is a lot of romance in this book.  And I mean a lot.  So much kissing, some adult scenes (I would recommend at the very least this book, to older young adult readers).  It’s not bad romance/kissing, there’s just a lot of it.  So much smoldering, melting, dissolving, burning, simmering, and all of the other ways to relate romance to fire/heat.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to older YA readers and fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, and the other authors I’ve mentioned above.  This is a striking third book in a series with a lot of promise.  It looks there will be more books in this series and I will be patiently awaiting their publication!

I recieved a galley copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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