Review: Shadows by Robin McKinley

March 31, 2014 2014, B, book rating, reviews 3

I returned from Europe about 2:15 a.m. this morning so I feel a little loopy, but I’m pretty sure this review was scheduled for last week. For some reason that didn’t work so here it is now!

by Robin McKinley
Series: Unknown
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013
E-book, Library
357 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: 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.

The story starts like something out of a fairy tale: I hated my stepfather.

It’s usually stepmothers in fairy tales. Well, equal time for stepfathers.


“It’s kind of interesting you’re driving a car big enough for a wolfhound and a mastiff to get in the back of today,” I said.

“And a greyhound, a dark brown bear, and a brindle utility vehicle,” said Jill.

“Greyhounds don’t take up much room,” I said. “They’re like dog silhouettes.”

What worked for me:

  • I like how origami is used and talked about.
  • The friendships in the book
  • Mongo, Maggie’s dog is such a fun dog. I love the way Robin McKinley depicts him. I also like the way Maggie thinks about him, his training and his actions.
  • Maggie works at an animal shelter and we get to know many of the dogs and one cat very well.
  • The cat–Majid–is a Maine coon cat. He’s huge, independent and has an attitude!
  • I like the way the book doesn’t let us know just what’s happening at first. Maggie doesn’t like (hates) her new stepfather and her mother thinks she’s acting like a brat.
  • The magic in this world is interesting.
  • The different worlds–Newworld (where this story takes place and science rules), Oldworld (where Val and Casimer are from and magic still happens), the Southworlds, Midworld and Farworld–are interesting though we don’t find out much about any world except Newworld and a little about Oldworld.

What didn’t work:

  • I thought there should be more at the end of the book. Maybe there will be a sequel, but I haven’t read that there is one. The ending seems to wrap everything up both too neatly and not at all. An unlikely future is talked about, but doesn’t really seem likely without more change to the world.
  • There are still so many questions. In the above synopsis it states Maggie discovers the world needs both science and magic to survive. I didn’t think Maggie figured that out at all–at least not consciously.

My thoughts:

I really like this book and am glad I read it, but wish I knew if Ms. McKinley is writing a sequel. I want more than the ending of this book!


3 Responses to “Review: Shadows by Robin McKinley”

  1. Jan

    You’re right about the names, Nathan, but it made me laugh. And I guess I thought that’s kind of how we name things–York – New York; North America – South America!
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