Review: Shadows by E.C. Blake

August 15, 2014 4 stars, Book Review 16 ★★★★

Review: Shadows by E.C. BlakeShadows by E.C. Blake
Series: Masks of Aygrima #2
Published by DAW on August 5, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

In Masks, Mara Holdfast's life changed forever. As the daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, she had a clearly defined future: a quiet, ordered life in the capital, making Masks with her father and doing work important to the ruling Autarch. But when her Mask, specially made by her own father, cracked and fell to pieces during her Masking ceremony, Mara was exiled from everything she once knew. Soon, she becomes part of an underground rebellion, rejecting the unjust rules of a Masked society and uncovering a horrifying plot of mind control over the entire population of the empire.

In a moment of crisis, Mara finds herself possessed of a volatile magical power that neither she nor any of her allies can truly control. In Shadow, Mara faces terrifying new challenges and dangers as she struggles to understand her unprecedented ability to use all types of magic—and to tear magic from the living bodies of those around her. With the arrival of Chell, a young man from across the sea, the world beyond the borders of the Autarchy of Aygrima begins to make itself felt. Then an act of brutality tips Mara dangerously close to madness…and in the midst of a desperate and bloody battle, she discovers just how horrifying her power can be….


More action packed and fast moving then the first

Shadows does another number on poor Mara Holdfast. It seems this girl can’t catch a break. She is having trouble accomplishing the task that the leader of the UnMasked Army has set for her and determines that she doesn’t have the knowledge to do what needs to be done. So she convinces them she needs to be allowed back to the capital city to seek out her father. Things of course quickly go awry after that.

New characters and new flames

Mara is completely drawn to a new character named Chell, a young man who washed ashore from a downed ship off the coast of the Secret City. She rescues him and he ends up being a key secondary character for the bulk of the book. He comes from an island nation called Korellia that has kept itself isolated from the rest of the world due to a long ago plague. While he’s quite the resourceful fellow he definitely has an agenda all his own. Of course a handsome new face couldn’t help but draw the attention of a young girl. But romantic things in this book definitely don’t go in the directions that I thought they would. Where in Masks a romantic love triangle was hinted at, folks will be happy to know that is not the case with the rest of the series. Also, Chell isn’t the only new character we meet by the turn of the last page.

Growing up is hard to do

Mara has had a lot of harsh growing up to do for her young 15 years. She’s witnessed some terrible things, done some horrible yet very necessary things that I don’t think she could at all be condemned for and yet she is still young and has so much to learn. I love how much she has grown in this book from the start to finish. She is such an excellent sympathetic character that you can’t help but root for and be curious as to what trouble she’ll get into next.

More to the Magic

I had plenty of questions left after the first book as to how the magic system in this series was going to work. Luckily some of those questions were answered here but not as well as I would have liked. I think that the level of knowledge and detail we’ll get about the magic will always be somewhat topical and no real deep delving. That doesn’t in anyway detract from the story but I’m soo into magic systems and I love knowing more. While we do learn more in Shadows it’s never quite enough for me.

Setup for a delicious conclusion

There are huge developments that take place in Shadows, the biggest of which unfortunately doesn’t take place until the very last pages. However, there is still plenty of action throughout that kept me eating through it much quicker then I did with the first book. The tension and stakes were definitely ratcheted up much higher this time around and I can tell by the ending we are left with. Not exactly a cliffhanger but definitely one of those types of endings you tend to get after the second book in a trilogy because I think this is a trilogy. I’m anticipating a big to do in the next book and I can already tell by how much I enjoy this author’s writing style that it is going to be a great book. I highly recommend this series for fantasy fans!

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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16 Responses to “Review: Shadows by E.C. Blake”

  1. Melliane

    It sounds like a great second book! I didn’t know this one but it sounds good! Mainly to see how the characters evolve. I wonder if I know about the forst novel, I’ll have to check that out. thanks for the review!
    Melliane recently posted…Ever After by Kate SerineMy Profile

  2. Nathan (@reviewbarn)

    I remember the first book being high on my wish list at the time it came out. But I completely forgot about it until now. I will put this firmly in the hmm maybe pile.

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Despite not being pubbed by a young readers imprint, these read like YA to me. Which isn’t a bad thing, but while the first book was sort of right in the middle, book two felt distinctly more YA to me. I couldn’t believe there was set up for a possible love square right at the beginning! I’m glad that resolved, but that still irked me. Anyway, for other reasons as well, I actually thought the first book was stronger. But I did like this one a lot too!
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Book Review: Into The Fire by Peter LineyMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I completely agree when that possible quadrandle raised its head I went wtf, no just no, but in the first one there wasn’t a very strong emphasis on romance so I was hoping things would settle out which thankfully they did – in a way I didn’t expect. He doesn’t treat the romance aspect as overly important which I appreciate.

      I agree the first toed the line between YA and crossover and this one was definitely much more YA. I actually enjoyed this one just as much as the first. Maybe about the same or even a little more. Only because it was good YA where as I haven’t found much good YA lately.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Review: Shadows by E.C. BlakeMy Profile

  4. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    I kinda hate it when an author saves the biggest development for last, but at least you got some answers to your questions. That’s usually the way of trilogies! This book is action-y AND fast paced—now you’re speaking my language. I hope you have an excellent weekend, Tabitha!
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  5. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I haven’t read the first one…and I usually skip commenting on sequels in case there’s spoilers, buuuut, you do reviews so well. And usually I’d say “pft, not my kind of book” but it sounds awesome! Chell is an awesome name, btw, only it reminds me of Chaol from Throne of Glass maybe a bit too much (or maybe my brain is just waaaay too obsessed with Tog). OH. But I love it when sequels are awesome and not let downs. Second-book-blues really sucks.
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  6. Molly Mortensen

    I so have to check the first book out now! It’s always good to hear that the sequel is as good as the first and that there’s no love triangle. I like romance, but it’s also refreshing when romance isn’t the most important thing. I love magic systems too! I hope in the third one it’s all explained. Nice review. 🙂
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  7. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I’m glad a lot of your questions are getting answered, but since I’m just know learning about this series from you and Mogsy, I think if I read it, I’m going to wait until after the final book comes out. Patience . . . not my virtue 😉 Great review though!
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