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Description From Goodreads:

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

THE SHADOW READER, by Sandy Williams
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: ***** 5 Stars
THE SHADOW READER is an inspiring interpretation of the fae in contemporary fantasy. Thoroughly enjoyable, the tale follows McKenzie Lewis as she is kidnapped from her college final exam and thrust into the middle of a fae war. She’s always been on the side of the fae King Atroth, but as she learns more about the rebels around her, she comes to discover that all may not be what it seems.

There were a couple of relatively minor world-building issues that stretched the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief, but despite that, I was carried away by this book and enjoyed every minute of the read.

Characters: ***** 5 Stars
I loved all of the characters in THE SHADOW READER. Each had a unique voice and brought together a deep, well-developed cast. Even the secondary characters enhanced the story, moving beyond mere placeholders to full characters in their own right.

Don’t let the girl on the cover deceive you, McKenzie Lewis is an average human college student, except for the fact that she can see fae magic and read the path of their fissures – portals from one world to another. Most notably, she does not carry a sword. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t kick-ass in her own right, stubborn and brave, trying to do the right thing without being deceived by the devious fae around her. She is the best shadow reader in the world, able to track the fae to within yards of their location after they jump through a fissure, making her a valuable asset to the King and a high-value target to the rebels.

Kyol is King Atroth’s sword-master, a cold warrior that softens only around McKenzie and loves her despite the King’s restriction that fae and humans cannot have a relationship. He does everything in his power to protect McKenzie, keeping her as far from the front lines of the war as possible and hiding her from the rebels, but eventually they catch up to her.

Aren is the rebel leader who finally manages to capture the shadow reader, but instead of killing her as he should in this brutal war, Aren tries to persuade her to see their side and learn the truth of the King and Kyol’s actions.

Plot: ***** 5 Stars
The plot was really well developed, with several twists and turns as McKenzie discovers more about the war, its origins, and her place in it. I especially enjoyed McKenzie’s internal conflict as she finds herself both sympathizing with the rebel cause (and its charismatic leader) and loyal to Kyol and the King. I couldn’t put the book down!

Setting: **** 4 Stars
Some of the world building threw me for a loop, sending me slightly out of the story to consider whether I could really believe the set-up. For example, when on Earth, the fae visibly show “chaos lusters”, bright lightning bolts of magic that dance across their skin. Only humans with the sight can see this magic, but the magic can jump from fae to human and back, a pleasurable sensation, apparently. The chaos lusters move faster when the fae is agitated or in pain, but why would the environmental magic be affected by mood? Similarly, human technology hurts the fae and drains their magic, regardless of what it’s made of, but I never understood why that would happen. I guess I like an explanation, even for the unexplainable.

However, the worlds themselves were really well developed, with great detail in the political situation, the atmosphere, and the scenery. I was drawn in and captivated by the world, not wanting to put the book down despite the few moments of distraction.

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
The love triangle between McKenzie, Kyol, and Aren is fantastic, despite Kyol not actually being present for most of the story. McKenzie is rightfully hesitant to trust Aren, her kidnapper. But Aren is immediately attracted to her and wants to keep her alive and safe. He works hard to make her see the rebel point of view, and change her opinion of him in the process. Kyol, on the other hand, has secretly held McKenzie’s heart for ten years and does everything in his power to bring her back to safety. McKenzie can’t help but think about him and struggles against her growing attraction to Aren in part due to loyalty to Kyol. There’s plenty of sexual tension between McKenzie and her two suitors, as well as plain old regular tension, but even though McKenzie eventually does make a choice, the novel is kept PG and the window is left open for further tension in future books.

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
A great combination of action, suspense, and adventure, with strong character development, makes this a great contemporary fantasy. For those that like a lot of heavy romance in their fantasy, this might not be a great pick for you, but the author brought something new and interesting to the genre with THE SHADOW READER. I look forward to the next installment!

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